I was involved in one such exchange recently and one can access the relevant thread I am referring to over at Mike L.'s blog by clicking here. I will copy and paste the pertinent statements so there is no ambiguity...
1. Is the system of 'slavery' you mention that appears in the Bible the same system of slavery that existed in the antebellum south or was it a system that was totally and completely different?
2. Let's pretend that there was an ancient, Old Testament admonishment to all households to 'free all slaves'
Then what? What were the newly freed slaves going to do? Hubby gets the 2nd shift job at McDonalds to help provide for the family while wifey-poo works the opening AM shift at 7-11?
I know that you aren't so completely clueless as to not know that the Industrial Revolution, the Department of Labor (Wage and Hour Division) and union shop stewards were only several thousand years ahead in the future.
So tell me, a that time, what were they going to do and what other options existed for them?
The Skeptical Magician:
JD - I'd hate for you to get bogged down in having to explain why rape was okay and encouraged by Yahweh, so yeah, let's move on.
"1. Is the system of 'slavery' you mention that appears in the Bible the same system of slavery that existed in the antebellum south or was it a system that was totally and completely different?"
Well, let's see... You have Israel going into foreign lands forcing people of another ethnic identity into slavery. We have the buying and selling of human beings, and passing them along as personal property (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT). You could buy sex slaves as long as you gave them food and clothing and screwed them (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT). You could beat your slave into a comma with rods and even kill them if it took a couple of days and it was okay, because the slave was your property (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB). If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, what else would you call it?
"2. Let's pretend that there was an ancient, Old Testament admonishment to all households to 'free all slaves' Then what? What were the newly freed slaves going to do? Hubby gets the 2nd shift job at McDonalds to help provide for the family while wifey-poo works the opening AM shift at 7-11?"
Gee, I don't know... maybe they could hunt and gather, or raise livestock like every other person during that time. By your logic here, we should take very low-income person who is working a job at McDonald's and make them a slave, because that would be the nice thing to do. By your logic we also should have never freed slaves in the United States."
But back to TSM's objections to slavery as contained in the Bible. First off, ...
"You have Isreal going into foreign lands forcing people of another ethinic identity into slavery"
I'm not sure what TSM means by this so I'll let them explain this further. Because according to Scripture, slavery (or 'bond-service') was necessarily voluntary. If these people in the surrounding countries were 'bought" (I think 'hired' would be a more accurate term) then who received the money? I would say that it was the servants themselves unless TSM can argue otherwise. “‘If an alien or a temporary resident among you becomes rich and one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells himself to the alien living among you or to a member of the alien’s clan, he retains the right of redemption after he has sold himself." Leviticus 25:47-48a, NIV, emphasis mine.
Furthermore, the practice of manstealing was strictly forbidden by the Israelites which further strengthens the argument for it having to be a voluntary act for anyone entering into such an agreement. "And he that steals a man, and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death" Exodus 21:16, KJV.
"We have the buying and selling of human beings, and passing them along as personal property (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)
Leviticus 25:44 "However, you may purchase male and female slaves from among the nations around you." New Living Translation
Insofar as "passing them on" as a "permanent inheritance", I'm sure SM realizes that this was from a time before Social Security, pension plans and 401 K's. What other cultures at that time promised that the infirm and elderly would be passed on to successive household generations and that they had to be provided for?
It so happens that I have a personal email (from 2009) from Rabbi Zev Leff pertaining to the so-called 'slaves as referred to in Leviticus 25:44-46. He wrote me concerning these passages, quote....
"dear mr. curtis,
these bondsmen and women were slaves that willingly subjugated themselves as such or were captured in war time. in any event they could only be held as slaves if they willingly accepted to
renounce idolatry and be converted to semi jewish status. if they completed this process they became the property of the master both they and their descendants and they were also part of the master's estate for inherhitance. under certain circumstances they could be freed upon which they became full fledged converts. the master had to provide for their basic needs and treat them humanely, if he even by accident put out their eye or tooth or any other limb ending as a finger etc. the slave went free.-sincerely, zev leff"
Such relationships were loving, familial ones and SM is free to quote the Torah scholar they consulted when examining this passage here. Which brings us to another
canard point raised by SM...
"You could beat your slave into a comma with rods and even kill them if it took a couple of days and it was okay, because the slave was your property" (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)
"And if a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property"
TSM, let's say that you are living in Biblical times and the harvest that you and your bondservants (or 'slaves' if you prefer) have worked on all year is upon you. Your entire livelihood for you and your entire household depends on effectively harvesting your crop.
On the morning of the harvest, you notice that every single one of your harvesting implements have been destroyed and are now worthless. You are now facing almost certain economic hardship and famine and it comes to your attention that one of your servants (or 'slaves') was seen by multiple witnesses destroying the implements the night before and when confronted about it, it turns out that they admit they did it and it was over some petty jealousy. What would you do with the bond-servant (or 'slave' if you prefer) in question?
"Gee, I don't know... maybe they could hunt and gather, or raise livestock like every other person during that time"
As has been previously posited, these are people that sold themselves into servitude. Nothing really prevented them from being hunter-gatherers but perhaps they wanted a roof over their head and a daily cooked meal to look forward to after a day of working. How were they going to obtain livestock if they had nothing to exchange for it?
Author Wayne Grudem once wrote...
"Slaves in this sense had a higher social status and better economic situation than free day laborers who had to search for employment each day (see Matthew 20:1-7, where the master of the house goes into the marketplace to hire day laborers at different times during the day). By contrast, those who were bondservants (or "slaves") had greater economic security with a continuing job and steady income."
If this was true during Roman times, then was it not true in the Ancient Near East? Feel free to explain this here.
"By your logic here, we should take very low-income person who is working a job at McDonald's and make them a slave, because that would be the nice thing to do. By your logic we also should have never freed slaves in the United States"
This is just stupendously stupid SM as you somehow managed to twist facts and logic by using an illustration showing that there were hardly any competing offers for employment at that with I want low-income service employees made into slaves. Feel free to clarify though.
While The Skeptical Magician is struggling with the direct questions that they now should answer, I would like to raise a brief point concerning so-called enslavement through military conquests. Christian Think Tank has posited the following, citing the Anchor Bible Dictionary by David Noel Freedman (Doubleday, 1992) as their source...
"Within all the periods of antiquity, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Hittite, Persian, and other Oriental rulers carried away great masses of captives from their victorious battles. But only an insignificant part of them was turned into slaves; all the others were settled on the land as palace and temple serfs….The question arises, why the masses of war prisoners were not enslaved. Slavery was the optimal form of dependence, and very often there was no shortage of prisoners captured in war. Besides, there were no legal or ethical norms preventing these prisoners from being turned into slaves. But this happened in a negligible percentage of cases, while the overwhelming majority were settled in places specially set aside for them, paid royal taxes, and carried out obligations, including military service." (Emphasis in the original )
TSM is of course free to attempt to refute this and cite their source while doing so.