1. Standard memberRBHILL
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    25 Feb '15 20:541 edit
    Does the Old Testament condone slavery?

    Absolutely not.

    The Old Testament speaks of slavery often, and lays out rules on how slaves were to be treated. This has caused some to become confused…but a basic understanding of the context for ancient near-eastern slavery shows that the Old Testament does not condone slavery. Let’s look at some common assumptions:

    ASSUMPTION #1: Regulating a behavior shows approval

    There are 33 Bible verses (NIV) containing the word “divorce”. Divorce is specifically regulated in Scripture, but does that mean that the Bible condones divorce? Let’s see:

    I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel…

    God hates divorce. Why would He give specific instructions governing it? Simple: because divorce was a fact of life. Failing to provide practical instructions on divorce would be like pretending it didn’t actually happen. Well, slavery was also a fact of life. Regulations for slavery should not be confused with the approval of slavery. The existence of regulations for specific behaviors is not the same as approval for those behaviors.

    However, Assumption #1 is not relevant to the issue of slavery in the Old Testament. As we’ll see, other faulty assumptions are at work:

    ASSUMPTION #2: Slavery was involuntary servitude

    Many incorrectly assume that the slavery in the Old Testament was like the modern western slavery of the 1700’s and 1800’s. Western slavery primarily benefited the rich, but Israelite slavery primarily benefited the poor. You see, slavery was almost always voluntary…the basic types of “enslavement” are known as self-sale, family sale, and indentured servitude. These relationships were usually initiated by the slave as a remedy for poverty.

    Poor families would sometimes sell their children as slaves. Were this situation like modern western slavery, we could justifiably condemn the practice…but the reality is that this was of great benefit to the child.

    Slavery contracts often emphasized that the slave agreed to work in exchange for economic security and personal protection. While modern western slaves were forbidden to own property of any kind, Hebrew slaves could take part in business, borrow money, and buy their own freedom…in other words, they were free to “buy out” the contract they’d made. They were also able to own property, pay betrothal monies, and pay civic fines. Slaves could appear in court as witnesses, plaintiffs, and defendants.

    Many ancient near-eastern slaves were able to buy time off as well, paying a fixed fee called a “quitrent” to their owner. This bought them a year where they didn’t have to work. The amount paid was roughly equivalent to the average annual pay of a hired worker, regardless of whether he was free or a slave.

    ASSUMPTION #3: Slavery was cruel and inhumane

    While human nature tells us that abuse certainly must have occurred, the Old Testament forbids the cruel treatment of slaves. In fact, slaves were afforded the same legal protections as free citizens.

    Leviticus 25 instructed Israelites to not mistreat slaves:

    Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God.
    …you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.
    …you must see to it that his owner does not rule over him ruthlessly.
    Instead of being cruel and inhumane, the relationships between slaves and owners appear to have been, at the very least, respectful. Many slaves were treated much like members of the owner’s family. Deuteronomy 15 has a very instructive passage regarding setting a slave free:

    If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free. And when you release him, do not send him away empty-handed. Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.

    But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your maidservant.

    Do not consider it a hardship to set your servant free, because his service to you these six years has been worth twice as much as that of a hired hand. And the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do.

    The personal rights and responsibilities of a slave were clearly more important than the owner’s “property rights”. Slavery was generally an economic transaction and not a human rights violation. As but one example, slaves were forbidden to work on the Sabbath and were expected to take part in social celebrations…just like their masters. It’s clear that the slavery in the Old Testament wasn’t like modern western slavery at all. Obviously, these slaves recieved great benefits from making such arrangements.

    Assumption #4: It was okay to harm a slave

    If a master beat a slave and the slave died, he was to be killed. If he caused any sort of permanent damage to the slave, the slave was to be set free immediately. Note that “permanent damage” included such things as knocking out a tooth! This was a stark contrast to other near-eastern cultures, where a master was allowed to put out the eyes of his slaves with no consequences. An Israelite master had incentive to avoid striking a slave in the face, which was considered a civic wrong.

    Some try to use Exodus 21:20-21 as evidence that Assumption #4 is accurate:

    If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.

    On the surface, this looks as though a master could get away with mistreating a slave. When we look more closely, it’s clear that this wasn’t considered mistreatment. In fact, this verse shows that slaves were treated in much the same way as free citizens.

    Being beaten by a rod was a common punishment. The community elders employed the rod to punish wrongdoers, and fathers applied the rod to rebellious older sons. Using a rod to discipline a slave would be common, if not customary. The punishments for harming slaves and free men were equivalent:

    If the slave died, the owner was killed.
    If the slave was permanently harmed, they were set free.
    If the slave was temporarily harmed, the owner was not punished.
    A free citizen who was temporarily harmed would be compensated for lost work time and medical bills, but the slave would not. The difference was simply economic: the owner was financially responsible for the slave, so he absorbed the loss of work time and made sure the slave was healed instead of paying them cash.

    Assumption #5: Women were sex slaves

    Women were sometimes sold into slavery (self-sale or family sale) as concubines. While westerners typically consider this the equivalent of being an involuntary sex slave, that’s clearly not the case, as we read in Exodus 21 :

    If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

    A concubine wasn’t held against her will and used for sex. She was a true wife, but a secondary or subordinate one. The phrase “marital rights” as well as those in Judges 3 give us insight into a concubine’s life: the man who bought her is her husband, his father is her father-in-law, and so on. The practice of keeping concubines is related to polygamy and not to enforced servitude.

    These relationships could hardly be considered negative. They let young women voluntarily escape poverty, offered them security and protection, and gave them upward social mobility in the home of a wealthy family. They were also safe from favoritism: if the man took another wife, she was afforded the same basic legal protections as any other wife: food, clothing, and conjugal rights.

    Exodus 21:8 says that such women could not be sold to foreigners. The implication is that foreigners wouldn’t recognize her personal rights as afforded by Israeli law, and so she could never be redeemed. This shows that a slave’s personal rights were more important than a slave owner’s “property rights”.
  2. Standard memberRBHILL
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    25 Feb '15 20:551 edit
    Assumption #6: The Old Testament condones involuntary slavery

    The Old Testament is clear in its position on involuntary slavery: it was punishable by death:

    Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death. Exodus 21:16
    If a man is caught kidnapping one of his brother Israelites and treats him as a slave or sells him, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from among you. Deuteronomy 24:7
    Involuntary enslavement was, according to the Old Testament, evil.

    Assumption #7: The selling of slaves is proof of cruelty

    The most common verse used for this claim is Leviticus 25:44…

    Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.

    The assumption here is that this sale would be against the slave’s will. However, there’s nothing in the Old Testament to bear this out. The Hebrew word from that verse that’s translated “buy” suggests a transaction. Considering the Old Testament’s view of slavery and the lack of contrary evidence, one could reasonably assume that these transactions were entirely voluntary.

    The ancient definitions of freedom and slavery were more relative than absolute. Kings were masters and their subjects were slaves. Rulers subject to others (e.g. emperors) were slaves. Child adoptions were recorded as sales transactions, with the new parents being considered masters. Virtually any subordinate could be considered a slave. The modern definitions of freedom, slavery, property, and ownership don’t adequately express the ancient reality.

    For an example, read the 15th and 16th verses of Deuteronomy 23:

    If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand him over to his master. Let him live among you wherever he likes and in whatever town he chooses. Do not oppress him.

    The implication here is that the slave belongs to a foreigner, but should be allowed to make a home among the Israelites as he pleases. If slaves were considered property, extradition would have been immediate…since the slave would “belong” to someone else. Extradition back to a foreign slave owner was forbidden, and we might safely assume that this had to do with the difference in how slaves were treated by other cultures.

    Note as well the wording of Leviticus 25:46…

    You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life…

    While it was possible to will foreign slaves to your children, that was not the default. While it was possible to make them slaves for life, that was not the default. It’s entirely reasonable to assume that the ‘slave for life’ clause would be based on the slave’s wishes, as it would be for a Hebrew slave.

    Assumption #8: Slaves were captured in wartime

    During wartime, a city might surrender to Israel. It would then become a vassal state to Israel, and its people would be considered serfs instead of slaves. They would be expected to work on civic projects, as the Israelites did under Solomon’s rule.

    Considering the fact that such conscriptions included both Hebrews and foreigners, such serfdom would be entirely voluntary. The serf as well as the slave enjoyed the protection and prosperity of the community.

    Conclusion

    While the Old Testament clearly lists guidelines regarding slavery, it’s clear that the type of slavery involved was overwhelmingly voluntary. Most relationships were either initiated by the slave or as an arrangement by the family of the slave as an economic and social benefit. Mistreatment of a slave was forbidden, and slaves were afforded most of the same freedoms and responsibilities as free citizens. The charge that the Bible condones slavery, as the modern western world understands it, is entirely without merit.

    2 thoughts on “Does the Old Testament condone slavery?”

    Mark Choi says:
    October 3, 2014 at 9:01 pm
    This article is complete and utter nonsense, and has NO historical or Biblical foundation.

    Tony Scialdone says:
    October 10, 2014 at 2:31 pm
    Mark Choi:

    Thanks for visiting GodWords! Your comment is complete and utter nonsense, and has NO historical or Biblical foundation.
    Leave a Reply:

    http://godwords.org/515/does-the-old-testament-condone-slavery/
  3. Joined
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    25 Feb '15 20:58
    Originally posted by RBHILL
    Does the Old Testament condone slavery?

    Absolutely not.

    The Old Testament speaks of slavery often, and lays out rules on how slaves were to be treated. This has caused some to become confused…but a basic understanding of the context for ancient near-eastern slavery shows that the Old Testament does not condone slavery. Let’s look at some common assumpti ...[text shortened]... shows that a slave’s personal rights were more important than a slave owner’s “property rights”.
    Yes, if you don't do what god tells you ,you've had it!!!!!!!!
  4. Standard memberRBHILL
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    25 Feb '15 21:06
    Originally posted by OdBod
    Yes, if you don't do what god tells you ,you've had it!!!!!!!!
    Yeah you read it that fast!
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    25 Feb '15 21:11
    Originally posted by RBHILL
    Yeah you read it that fast!
    It's true though, isn't it RB!
  6. Standard memberRBHILL
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    25 Feb '15 22:45
    Originally posted by OdBod
    It's true though, isn't it RB!
    He is a just God to allow you to make the choice of rejecting him but he gave you his son so that you have in the way of an escape for his wrath.
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    25 Feb '15 23:06
    Originally posted by RBHILL
    He is a just God to allow you to make the choice of rejecting him but he gave you his son so that you have in the way of an escape for his wrath.
    Any which way you cut it, if you don't do what god says you've had it. There is no way of getting out of it, that has got to be a slave/master relationship!!!!
  8. Standard memberDeepThought
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    25 Feb '15 23:08
    Originally posted by RBHILL
    Does the Old Testament condone slavery?

    Absolutely not.

    The Old Testament speaks of slavery often, and lays out rules on how slaves were to be treated. This has caused some to become confused…but a basic understanding of the context for ancient near-eastern slavery shows that the Old Testament does not condone slavery. Let’s look at some common assumpti ...[text shortened]... shows that a slave’s personal rights were more important than a slave owner’s “property rights”.
    Is this a copy and paste from a website? I read the first couple of paragraphs and then got bored. I get the impression that it is copy and pasted because of the link, and the two comments you included at the end. If you are going to do that then can you please state at the top that you are quoting from somewhere (using the [ quote ] [ /quote ] tags as well is even better) - that way I won't think that these are your views.

    Yes, slavery is an ancient institution and what it was like depended on the rules the society had, whether one was born into it or had sold oneself into it to avoid starvation (which incidentally was quite common in the Anglo-Saxon era in England) as then one had control over the terms and conditions, and critically how large the supply of slaves was. After Rome destroyed Carthage and enslaved the entire population, at least the ones that didn't run away and hide, there was a vast increase in the availability of slaves in Rome which meant their treatment became worse.
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    25 Feb '15 23:58
    It is impressive and depressing the lengths people will go to to try to justify the moral
    abomination that is the old testament.

    The bible CLEARLY explains that this is definitively ownership of people without choice
    or in many cases a chance for freedom.

    It includes the ability to beat your slave to death, as long as that slave survives a few
    days after the beating.

    It is slavery pure and simple.

    And nowhere in the bible does it expressly state "You shall Not own people".

    That people can claim that the bible is moral shows simply that they do not know the
    meaning of the word.
  10. Standard membersonship
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    26 Feb '15 17:08
    Originally posted by googlefudge
    It is impressive and depressing the lengths people will go to to try to justify the moral abomination that is the old testament.


    What is depressing to you is that you cannot accuse God of being a moral monster. You're depressed because your slanders don't come off so easily.

    In Europe and the USA the Methodist, Quakers and the Mennonites would not have been able to write such effective theological treatise to fight against the Slave Trade had they no had the Bible. These writings touched the consciences of many people until Slavery became an intolerable social evil to a large portion of these societies.

    You're depressed because some of us are not so easily hoodwinked by your abject ignorance of the Scriptures or of history of the forces that worked to abolish the Slave Trade in its latter incarnations.


    The bible CLEARLY explains that this is definitively ownership of people without choice or in many cases a chance for freedom.


    This is rather stupid.

    Sure there a degree of ownership in the similar sense of the way we speak today. One football team OWNS this player and another football team OWNS another player.

    I would not say that there is absolutely NO sense of ownership. But as I think most rational people should be able to see the OT laws prescribed LIMITATIONS.

    Why could the fugitive slave find refuge in Israel ?
    Why didn't the OWNERSHIP of the mean master the slave ran away from trump the Mosiac law's command that the slave was NOT to be returned to that master ?

    Do you think the Slave Trade in 19th US would have flourished if Deut. 23:15-16 had been instituted by Congress:

    You shall not deliver to his master the slave who has escaped from his master to you; He shall dwell with you, even in your midst. in the place which he chooses among your towns, wherever he pleases; you shall not oppress him. (Deut. 23:15,16)


    So if the US had made such legislation imitating God's law an kidnapped African slave could escape to freedom and have no fear of being taken back to his or her master. But not only so, Jim Crow laws would have to also be struck down because Deuteronomy said that X slave was also not to be "OPPRESSED" period.

    He shall dwell with you, even in your midst. in the place which he chooses among your towns, wherever he pleases; you shall not oppress him. (Deut. 23:16)

    I am a descendent of African slaves in the US. I can assure you that oppression plenty followed X slaves long after Emancipation.



    It includes the ability to beat your slave to death, as long as that slave survives a few days after the beating.

    It is slavery pure and simple.


    No wonder you're depressed. You're trying hard to make "pure and simple" that which clearly had many built in moral limitations to it.

    You're saying the law includes the ability to beat your slave to death.
    No it doesn't. The law of Moses had many prescriptive commands about what should be done SHOULD this or that was to happen.

    Divorce HAPPENED. The LAW prescribed things that were to take place should divorce (which God said He hated) should happen. You're completely twisted in logic if you read those remedies to be God equipping or granting ABILITY for the Hebrews to divorce.

    God said in essence "IF this tragic and unrighteous thing should take place, these are the procedures that should accompany."

    Exodus 21:20-21

    If a man strikes his male servant or his female servant with a staff so that he or she dies as a result of the blow, he will surely be punished [NAQAM]. However, if the injured servant survives one or two days, the owner will not be punished [NAQAM] , for he has suffered the loss.


    I would be depressed also if I twisted this in my mind to read "Thou Shalt Beat Thy Slave To Death" arguing that God was giving the ABILITY for this to be done. My conscience would depress me that I found it necessary to twist the words into such a slanderous misrepresentation of God's words.

    The verb naqam always involves the death penalty in the Old Testament according to Paul Copan, author of Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. So what is indicated here is judicial vengeance for the murder of a slave.

    Evidence for this is reinforced in the axiom of taking "life for life" in Exodus 21:23-24). He took the slaves life by murder, so capital punishment enacts the judicial vengeance against the master murderer.

    I'll give more space to this latter perhaps. But far from giving the murder master ability to do his deed, the law if giving ability to the society to take life for life against a murderous slave master.


    And nowhere in the bible does it expressly state "You shall Not own people".


    LOL !!

    Degrees of ownership of one person over another is a fact of life from ancient times even to today.

    And employer has some ownership over the employees if not absolute.
    If you don't think so, use your employer's time repeatedly to work for some other person paying you. You'll find out quickly, if caught, that a breach of OWNERSHIP has become a problem to your boss.

    Husband and wives have a degree of OWNERSHIP over each other.
    Parents have a sense of OWNSHIP upon their children.
    Parents with CUSTODY of certain children are assigned a degree of OWNERSHIP.

    A sports team boasts of OWNERSHIP of players to the tune of millions of dollars.

    Military entities exert OWNERSHIP over their soldiers. In the US if you assault an member of the armed services you may get into trouble for harming property of the United States government. In ancient times it was not different.

    The Bible may not say "Thou Shalt Not Own Someone" because OWNERSHIP of people in some degree is a part of human life.

    The Bible DOES, however, establish the full PERSONHOOD and dignity of every human being, including the owned slave or indentured servant.

    Genesis 1:26,27 - MEN and WOMEN are all made in the image of God. It is not just FREE and UNOWNED ones are.

    Job 31:13-15 - is an early record of a master's FEAR before God of despising the cause of an owned servant. Divine justice was the concern of the owner for mistreatment of the servant.

    "If I have despised the cause of my servant or my maid when they contended with me, What then will I do when God rises up? And when He visits me, what will I answer Him?

    Did not He who made me in the womb make them?


    God is the Creator of both master and servant, therefore the divinely endowed DIGNITY of both is EQUAL even though there is some ownership of the master over his servant or maid.

    Can you find me a writing in an ancient document pre-dating the book of Job which similarly reveals a person's fear before God of oppressing his servant or maid ?

    And of course Deuteronomy 15:1-18 which is too long to discuss here, affirms the full personhood of any servant. Black slaves in the US were only three fifths of a person. So the OT surpassed early US constitutional law concerning the dignity of owned persons.


    That people can claim that the bible is moral shows simply that they do not know the meaning of the word.


    Concerning the specific charges above, it appears that YOU don't know the Bible or appreciate the righteous limitations which God imposed upon certain societal phenomenon which have been facts of life, albeit unfortunate, since mankind has existed on the earth.

    So let's consider the time BEFORE laws. This would be the space of time from Adam's fall until the time of Noah. During this span of history there was no government. This was a truly libertarian soceity. This was in the real sense of the word an ANARCHY.

    The anarchy of human history when God allowed every person only to follow their own consceince with no human government turned out badly eventually. The DECLINE and the DOWNWARD DEGRADATION of this society led to the WORST connotations of the world anarchy. The minds of people were continually evil every moment. And God had to bring in a righteous judgment.

    There were so many murders that it would be ridiculous to speak of no OWNERSHIP of one person over another. To deprive another person of life is the furthest expression of one's ownership of another.

    So in this world PRE-law of Moses and even pre-human government the WORST forms of man on man ownership ran rampant eventually. God's law prescribed limits.
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    26 Feb '15 17:11
    Originally posted by sonship
    It is impressive and depressing the lengths people will go to to try to justify the moral abomination that is the old testament.


    What is depressing to you is that you cannot accuse God of being a moral monster. You're depressed because your slanders don't come off so easily.

    In Europe and the USA the Methodist, Quakers and the Men ...[text shortened]... ent the WORST forms of man on man ownership ran rampant eventually. God's law prescribed limits.
    Thankyou for making my point for me.
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    26 Feb '15 18:354 edits
    Originally posted by googlefudge
    Thankyou for making my point for me.
    As expected - a few cheap, glib contrary words from you in reply.

    This things take a lot of time and study. And for you come back with some little stupid trollish retort means zero to me. I was not even writing for your benefit which is very likely a lost cause, as far as googlefudge is concerned.
  13. Standard membersonship
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    26 Feb '15 18:442 edits
    Referring to RBHILL's post:

    Leviticus 25 instructed Israelites to not mistreat slaves:

    Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God.
    …you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.
    …you must see to it that his owner does not rule over him ruthlessly.
    Instead of being cruel and inhumane, the relationships between slaves and owners appear to have been, at the very least, respectful. Many slaves were treated much like members of the owner’s family. Deuteronomy 15 has a very instructive passage regarding setting a slave free:


    And there were other laws in case this principle was not followed. Therefore we have other laws in Deuteronomy prescribing what should occur, when for the human weakness of fallen man, established principles were violated.

    It would not be right for God to have left many of those situations unaddressed.
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    26 Feb '15 19:04
    Originally posted by RBHILL
    Does the Old Testament condone slavery?
    Yes.
  15. Joined
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    26 Feb '15 19:10
    Originally posted by sonship
    As expected - a few cheap, glib contrary words from you in reply.

    This things take a lot of time and study. And for you come back with some little stupid trollish retort means zero to me. I was not even writing for your benefit which is very likely a lost cause, as far as googlefudge is concerned.
    I wasn't talking for your benefit either.

    You are far too gone to be reasoned with, and far to immoral to see how wrong you are.


    KJV:

    Exodus 21:2-6
    [2] If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.
    [3] If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
    [4] If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself.
    [5] And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:
    [6] Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.



    Exodus 21:20-21
    [20] And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.
    [21] Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.


    Exodus 22:3
    [3] If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.


    Leviticus 25:44-46
    [44] Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
    [45] Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.
    [46] And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.



    This is slavery. Pure and simple.

    The knots you twist yourselves into to try to justify this that WE know is utterly immoral and ranks
    among the worst crimes a person can commit are plain for all of sound mind to see.
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