A man I was talking with argued against the righteousness of the God of the Bible because “he allows slavery”. His refusal to even discuss alternate perspectives on references to slavery in the Bible proved that, in reality, he was just seizing on an opportune excuse for rejecting an authority figure.
The fact is that the Bible condemns slavery and warns against getting caught in it.
“And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire.” (Genesis 4:6-7)
But God also gives free will to humans to serve whichever master they end up subjecting themselves to through their choices in life.
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve;
- whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood / Euphrates River, i.e. in Mesopotamia,
- or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell:
- but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
“See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil…
- love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
- But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them…ye shall surely perish,” Deuteronomy 30:15-18)
This is not a threat of punishment by an angry God. History provides proof that fallen humanity is responsible for their own mayhem.
Slavery is known to have existed as early as the Shang dynasty (18th–12th century BCE) in China…down to the 20th century…slaves were generated in the same ways they were elsewhere, including capture in war, slave raiding, and the sale of insolvent debtors… self-sale into slavery, the sale of women and children (to satisfy debts or because the seller could not feed them), and the sale of the relatives of executed criminals….kidnapping…
Among the Aztecs of Mexico…People got into the institution through self-sale and capture and could buy their way out relatively easily…[but] chattels purchased from the Mayans and others were sacrificed in massive numbers…
In England about 10 percent of the population entered in the Domesday Book in 1086 were slaves, with the proportion reaching as much as 20 percent in some places. Slaves were also prominent in Scandinavia during the Viking era, 800–1050 CE, when slaves for use at home and for sale in the international slave markets were a major object of raids…
Continental Europe—France, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, and Russia—all knew slavery. Russia was essentially founded as a by-product of slave raiding by the Vikings passing from Scandinavia to Byzantium in the 9th century, and slavery remained a major institution there until the early 1720s, when the state converted the household slaves into house serfs in order to put them on the tax rolls. House serfs were freed from their lords by an edict of Tsar Alexander II in 1861. Many scholars argue that the Soviets reinstituted a form of state slavery in the Gulag camps that flourished until 1956.
Slavery was much in evidence in the Middle East from the beginning of recorded history. It was treated as a prominent institution in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi…Slaves were present in ancient Egypt and are known to have been murdered to accompany their deceased owners into the afterlife…
Slaves were owned in all Islamic societies…ranging from Arabia…to North Africa in the west and to what is now…Indonesia in the east. Some Islamic states, such as the Ottoman Empire, the Crimean Khanate, and the Sokoto caliphate, must be termed slave societies because slaves there were very important numerically as well as a focus of the polities’ energies.
Slaves have been owned in Black Africa throughout recorded history. In many areas there were large-scale slave societies…Approximately 18 million Africans were delivered into the Islamic trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean slave trades between 650 and 1905. In the second half of the 15th century Europeans began to trade along the west coast of Africa, and by 1867 between 7 million and 10 million Africans had been shipped as slaves to the New World…African slave owners demanded primarily women and children for labour and lineage incorporation and tended to kill males because they were troublesome and likely to flee. The transatlantic trade, on the other hand, demanded primarily adult males…
The first known major slave society was that of Athens…Slaves were responsible for the prosperity of Athens and the leisure of the aristocrats, who had time to create the high culture now considered the beginning of Western civilization. The existence of large-scale slavery was also responsible, it seems logical to believe, for the Athenians’ thoughts on freedom that are considered a central part of the Western heritage…
The next major slave society was Roman Italy between about the 2nd century BCE and the 4th century CE. Initially, Rome was a polity consisting primarily of small farmers. But the process of creating the empire took them away from their farms for extended periods, and the prolonged wars of conquest in Spain and the eastern Mediterranean during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE created a great flood of captives. Nothing was more logical than to put the captives to work farming, especially the olives and grapes that created much of the prosperity of the late republic and the principate. Slaves and freedmen were responsible for much of the empire’s commodity production, and in the early principate they ran its governmental bureaus as well…Roughly 30 percent of the population was enslaved…
The nation of Israel was the only nation at that time in history known to forbid enslavement of its national people.
“if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant / paying off a debt: But as an hired servant / guaranteed wages, and as a sojourner / temporarily, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubilee [occurred every 7 years]. And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return.”
“if…thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself / receives lump sum payment up front he has to work off unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger’s family: After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself. Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God….”
Two thousand years later Islamic law incorporated the biblical regulations on slavery. It took another 1,200 years for Christian nations to outlaw overt slavery.
But still, slavery exists world-wide..
On September 15, 2016, Urmila Bhoola, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, presented a report on slavery in the modern world, in particular debt bondage…
it takes place…across many sectors of the economy, and is a form of enslavement with deep historical roots…remains one of the most prevalent forms of modern slavery in all regions of the world despite being banned in international law and most domestic jurisdictions.”…
there is a close relationship between debt bondage and various forms of exploitation, “including forced labour, the abuse of migrant workers, trafficking, and the worst forms of child labour.”…
ILO provided a figure in 2012 of 20.9 million people being victims of forced labor of all forms…
The Bible provides the only possible solution.
Someone has to pay the price for freeing others.
“in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof…and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family…”
“And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land. If thy brother…hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.” (Leviticus 25:8-25)
Even today, societies with strong clan membership ties, such as the Batak in Indonesia, practice the levirate – widows marrying brothers or cousins of their deceased spouse to keep the most valued of possessions – land – in the family. Not only in agrarian societies but throughout history in all the world, land is the source of the Wealth of Nations, even, actually especially, in production-oriented modern societies.
In Economics, the word ‘land’…stands for all nature, living and lifeless. It includes all natural resources that we can get free from air, water and land…
everything that we use can be traced ultimately to land. Land may be rightly called the original source of all material wealth. The economic prosperity of a country is closely linked with the richness of her natural resources.
The Wealth of Nations is in fact a continuation of the philosophical theme begun in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. The ultimate problem to which Smith addresses himself is how the inner struggle between the passions and the “impartial spectator”—…the single individual—works its effects in the larger arena of history itself, both in the long-run evolution of society and in terms of the immediate characteristics…
The Bible frees enslaved individuals in every oppressed population in society – slaves to masters, wives to husbands, barbarians to cultured, and pagan to holy – by virtue of equality as spiritual sons of God.
“there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but The Promised One / Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering…And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body.” (Colossian 3:11-15)
Paul demonstrates redemption of a slave within the body of Christ
“Paul…unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer…though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee…for love’s sake I rather beseech thee…for my [spiritual] son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels / seed…Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?…87 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it…Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord:” (Philemon)
“All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you…With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.” (Colossians 4:1-9)
The promise of redemption given to the first two humans is most evidently carried in the collective consciousness of all humanity. As with all truisms in the Bible, we can understand the spiritualized concept through humanity’s social relationships with each other.
The process of redeeming a life by taking another’s is clearly understood by humans, from modern government’s imposition of the death penalty to personal retribution.
The death of family members had a profound psychological effect upon the Iroquois…Essentially, they felt that they needed restitution in some form or another for the dead relative...The first was for a warrior to bring back the scalp of an Indian from the killer’s tribe and to present it to the grieving person…The other two options involved a live captive: the Iroquois either vengefully tortured the prisoner to death or adopted him or her into the tribe.
These two approaches to redemption – torturing to death, and adopting into the tribe – are documented in the Bible.
The idea that deadly cancer can be cured without a major disruption to the system is, from an objective point of view, a very pleasant idea, but a fatal one, and so it is with sin. So, Richard Dawkins, does this answer your question?
Sin, like cancer, is not something that can be dismissed with a nod and a wave of the hand, like burping in public. Sin, like cancer, is a deeply unpleasant condition requiring a deeply unpleasant remedy involving suffering.
“I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; That frustrateth the tokens of the liars [like Satan and Richard Dawkins]…he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed….we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 44:23-24; 53:3-6)
This is redemption – paying a high price to free another from bondage therefore making them your equal. The laws – immutable consequences of action A resulting in reaction A – hold as true in the hyper dimensional state of being as they do in our familiar four-dimensions. Crimes result in punishment and death.
And the sons of God are known by their participation in God’s work of redeeming mankind.
“denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world…our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:12-14)
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant…For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life…and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all…But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you…For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.” (Philippians 2)
The spiritual heritage of the United States of America is notorious. Most of the most important American government leaders, institutions, monuments, buildings, and landmarks both openly acknowledge and incorporate religious words, symbols, and imagery into official venues. Such acknowledgments are even more frequent at the state and local level than at the Federal level, where thousands of such acknowledgments exist.
There are statues of Moses as YHVH’s great lawgiver in both the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court buildings.
But mouthing words and putting on a show does not reality make.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits [produce, production, works]…every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit…Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:15-21)
Our industrialized Christian societies continue to extort labor, we just simply don’t call these practices “slavery” while exploiting workers in factories and remote countrysides of foreign countries. Call it what you will, extraction of more labor than is recompensed is the currency by which self-indulgence, wealth, status and power is always obtained, individually and socially.
America’s liberation of the victims of Nazi Germany is lauded, but closer inspection exposes Christian America refusing to engage in the work of redemption.
On April 10, 1945, the 84th Infantry Division liberated Hannover-Ahlem concentration camp. Confronted with walking skeletons and cadavers piled in bins, many service members cried and vomited. After inspecting the squalid camp hospital filled with men he described as “catatonics,” Capt. William J. Hagood Jr., a doctor in the 335th Infantry Regiment of the 84th Division, wrote in a letter to his wife, “You have to see it — and you are so stunned, you only say it was horrible. You can’t think of adjectives…
The liberation of the camps involved more than 30 American military units…These soldiers were responsible for organizing medical care, supplying food and eventually repatriating the freed prisoners, and so served as primordial architects of the survivors’ journeys from camp degradation to the postwar search for their lost humanity…
As the first presence from the outside world, the Allied liberators presented a dual reality for detainees in concentration camps…prisoners attained long-awaited freedom, but the way some liberators treated them reinforced the idea that they had become less than human...prisoners who weren’t selected for the gas chamber learned quickly from Nazi guards that they weren’t viewed as humans but as animals. Orders were barked, compassion was nonexistent. Semprún hadn’t expected that his liberators would view him in the same way…
the Soviets at Auschwitz…“did not greet us nor did they smile,” Levi wrote in “The Reawakening.” “They seemed oppressed not only by compassion but by a confused restraint, which sealed their lips and bound their eyes to the funereal scene.” Like Semprún, Levi compared this experience to the sense of shame felt in front of German captors: “It was that shame we knew so well … every time we had to watch, or submit to, some outrage: the shame that the Germans did not know, that the just man experiences at another man’s crime.”
Some liberators treated the surviving prisoners this way not only because they were disgusted by the reality of the heinous crimes committed upon them, but also because they were poorly prepared for what they would find. The historian Robert Abzug, who studied the way American G.I.s reacted to liberation, found that even the most “battle-weary” service members were stunned, unable to reconcile the Nazi terrors with their bloodiest memories of combat. Yet Allied intelligence had known that Jews were being rounded up, deported and massacred for years. In August 1944, major American newspapers covered the Soviet discovery of Maidanek, an extermination camp near the Polish city of Lublin. Similarly, in late January and February 1945, the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz made headlines, but these reports didn’t seem to prepare the soldiers for what they would find…Captain Hagood …wrote: “All the grisly scenes I’d witnessed in four years of combat paled as I viewed the higgedly-piggedly stack of cadavers.”
Ruth Kluger encountered her first American in the town center of Straubing, Germany, after escaping Christianstadt. In her memoir, “Still Alive,” she recalled that when her mother told him they had fled a concentration camp, he put his hands over his ears, having apparently had his fill… “Here was my first American, and he deliberately closed his ears,” she recalled. “One thing, I figured, was certain: this war hadn’t been fought for our sake.”
Some of these reactions…point to anti-Semitism, even within the most senior echelons of the military. After inspecting displaced persons camps in Germany in summer of 1945, Earl G. Harrison, a lawyer and American representative to the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, expressed harsh criticism of the ways Jews were treated by the Americans, claiming evidence of conditions similar to the Nazi-run concentration camps from which they had been freed. He summarized his observations by stating, “We appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them except that we do not exterminate them.” When President Harry Truman read the report, he ordered Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to inspect displaced persons camps. During a visit to a camp in Bavaria, Gen. George S. Patton told Eisenhower that he blamed the refugees for the squalor. He complained they were “pissing and crapping all over the place,” and wanted to open his own concentration camp “for some of these goddamn Jews.” Maj. Irving Heymont, who was stationed at the Landsberg displacement camp, said in his letters that some Americans proclaimed that they preferred German civilians, who seemed normal, to the Jewish survivors, whom they characterized as animals undeserving of special treatment.
But as documented above, redemption of those in bonds, as well as impoverished and helpless victims of powerful social forces, is a fundamental aspect of biblical godliness.
“Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there; and, behold, the kinsman came by…And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s…If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me…I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it.” (Ruth 4:1-4)
Nice guy, the kinsman, helping out an impoverished widow. Although, as the account proceeds, we discover that he wasn’t being charitable. He was actually motived by financial considerations. Since Elimelech and his heirs were dead he was not planning on technically “redeeming” but “investing in” property that would more than repay him through the harvests it would yield him and his heirs for generations to come.
There was just one hitch. Under the Mosaic law, redemption served the purpose of restoring possession to the original owner and his heirs – forever, and ever, and... In the case where the land owner died without leaving any heirs to keep the land in the family in perpetuity, it was the duty of the redeemer to become a surrogate father. He would produce an heir who would take the name of, i.e. be posthumously adopted by, the deceased in order to continue the family of the deceased original owner.
“If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother [close relative] shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and…the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 25:5-6)
Restoration could cost the redeemer a lot. If he had to give up a son to the deceased’s estate, he risked losing not only his own landed estate, but his own lifeline to an eternal state. In ancient times, upwards of 50% of infants did not survive the first year of life, and Israel at that time was in deathly circumstances of famine and terrorist attacks which increased mortality in all ages from all causes of death. It was a dangerous time and place to raise a family.
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and…they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth…and they were greatly distressed… (Judges 2:11-14)
When Elimelech’s nearest kinsman, who either was ignorant of the law or planning to ignore it, was publicly informed by Boaz that he would be held to the conditions of this law, he rescinded his offer.
“Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance. And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou thy right to thyself.
Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel. [You can see this footprint would be as effective an identification as a fingerprint.] Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe.
And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s…Moreover / including Ruth the Moabitess…have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off…” (Ruth 4:5-10)
Boaz is the biblical exemplar of YHVH’s Savior who, witnessed by the elders and the common people, purchased both the land and a wife to raise up the name / attributes of the dead Adam, that the name / attributes of the dead be not cut off.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yahweh’s Consecrated Savior / Yeshua Messiah / Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. According as he hath chosen us [humans] in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
- In whom we have redemption – we are purchased from the previous owner, in this case, sin
- the forgiveness of sins – payment of a debt owed to God for defying him
- That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things – restoration of Singularity’s Creation
- In whom also we have obtained an inheritance – not just to live as citizens but to have dominion as kings.” (Ephesians 1:3-11)
“by his own blood he…obtained eternal redemption for us..
“And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament [tangible proof, legal evidence and enforcement of someone’s commitment to accomplish something, like a last will and testament] that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. ” (Hebrews 9:12-15)
- Like the first Adam who gave his life to redeem his wife from eternal separation from God,
- and Boaz who redeemed a wife to raise up the name of the dead,
- the last Adam also gave his life to redeem a partner to raise up the name of the dead Adam by producing more sons of God to claim their inheritance.
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called…Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;…But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ…For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying [building, the verb form of the noun edifice] of the body of Christ...maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-16)
Follow the trail in the Bible, not a favorite denomination. This helper suitable for the position is not Christian, or even Jewish, but as described in Ephesians, a spiritual nation chosen before the foundation of the world, and growing since the first human was created. YHVH’s Promised Savior / Seed of the Wo-man cloned from the original human is called the last Adam to draw our attention to the fulfillment of this redemption.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men…as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name [of Yeshua, YHVH’s Savior, Creator Redeemer]:” (John 1:1-12)
As many as received the Word of God become the sons of God. This didn’t just start 4,000 years after Adam and Eve with Christianity. We can logically conclude that the Adams received, and passed on, the belief in God’s word that he would overcome the Serpent and Sin through the Seed of the Woman, otherwise Abel, Seth, Noah couldn’t have any knowledge of Creator God, receive his Word and act on it in faith. God has continued to work through a helper suitable for him since he created humanity in his own image, after his likeness, and delegated to us the work of dominion over the earth.
“Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.” (Romans 9:22-26)
I hear the storm of protest. The Bible clearly says that “Christ is the head of the church.” (Ephesians 5:23)
OK, what does the Bible define as the church / assembly of the redeemed?
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
- For by it / faith the elders obtained a good report.
- Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God
- By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous
- By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because…he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
- he that cometh to God must believe that he is [i.e. I AM / YHVH], and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him…
- compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…Looking unto Yeshua / YHVH’s Redeemer / Jesus the author…of our faith…come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” (Hebrews 11-12)