So I have been having a long conversation about slavery in the Bible with the blogger Saintofchrist. The conversation stems from a blog of his Answering Exodus 21:4,7 & Deuteronomy 20:10-15. Which in itself is a response to some comments from a previous blog that you can link to from his site. As anyone who has followed my blog at all knows Slavery in the Bible is one of my favorite topics so we have already gone several rounds. I am going to plop all of you into the middle of it just because I have been having conversations like this instead of putting content on my blog, and I just want to post something. Obviously this is not intended to be one of my better blogs, and obviously a good portion of it will be confusing if you do not go back and follow it from the beginning, but perhaps you can find some interesting tidbits inside that are worth your while.
<I see, you didn’t read the article because the law of slavery in Exodus 21, as I clearly explain in the article was optional, in other words, they didn’t have to agree with it, hence in verse 16, it says, “And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death”.>
Saint, i’m really struggling to understand what kind of decent human being would try to justify truly brutal slavery laws by saying they were optional. I did read your blog, I just don’t see what difference the optional factor makes. 1800s chattel slavery in the United States was optional too, are you suggesting that we should still allow slavery to exists so long as it is optional to own slaves? You seem to think my objection is that God coerced the Israelites into owning slaves. No my objection is that owning slaves was permissible at all. I don’t understand why you can’t seem to grasp that.
You keep holding up verse 16 like it is some kind of a shield. It’s not. Verse 4-6 says you can entrap a man into being your slave forever. verse 7 says you can sell your daughter into slavery. Leviticus 25 says you can buy slaves from foreigners and bequeath them to your children for forever. exodus 12:44 (the isralietes aren’t even out of Egypt yet) God says they can buy foreign slaves, but you have to mutilate their genitals before they can take part in the Passover. Which is just full of irony, not the genital mutilating part that is just weird, but the foreign slaves taking part of the holiday to celebrate God delivering freedom to the Hebrew slaves, a freedom that these foreign slaves, who the Hebrews have the “option” of beating within an inch of their life with a rod (exodus 21:20-21), will never get to experience.
But back to verse 16. The Bible makes it pretty clear that buying, selling, or owning slaves is not punishable by death. We know this because God, not someone speaking for God, but explicitly God says you can buy, sell, and own slaves. so this verse you keep holding as evidence that the bible doesn’t condone slavery really only deals with kidnapping.
<Also my point about the divorce was to show that not everything Moses said was God’s commandment but I also quote Jesus’ word about enemies in Matthew 5:44 but you have to ignore that one or you didn’t read it.>
Matthew 5:44 love your enemies, Great! Please explain which parts of genocide is loving your enemies. Please explain which parts of raping their daughters is loving your enemies. Please explain which part of murdering women and children prisoners of war is loving your enemies. Modern Christians “love” women who choose to have an abortion, as they try to systematically deny them their right to do so. Modern Christians “love” the LGBT community, as they try to deny them their rights. So why am i supposed to believe that the Israelites couldn’t love their enemies as they were systematically murdering and robbing them of their freedom? Mathew 5:44 is supposed to mean something? Matthew 5:44 doesn’t mean the anything. And even if it did mean anything Matthew 5:44 came about 4,000 years too late for our discussion anyways.
<As I said before, you ignore some of the things I’ve said. No, those are not the only two options. The children of Israel didn’t trust Him enough and the Bible says, “Without faith, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). God is a God of principle, He doesn’t just force things to people; otherwise everyone would have believed in Him by now. God gave them those options for them to operate because they were SENSE RULED. If He didn’t, they would have been obliterated from the face of the earth long time ago. They had to fight since they were sense ruled. They could only relate with their senses, this is why the asked for a king. They rejected God as their King (1 Samuel 8:4-7).>
You concede that enslavement and murder are not the only two options for God, and then say that the israelites didn’t trust god and immediately imply that enslavement and murder were the only two options for God. You argue if God hadn’t let the israelites enslave and murder their enemies they would have been obliterated from the planet. The Israelites had an all powerful deity on their side! The only way they could have been obliterated from the face of the earth is if he desired it. He could have commanded the isralites to beat their enemies with wet pool noodles, and they israelites would have been fine. So i’m going to ask you again why do you think enslavement and murder are the only two options for an infinitely powerful God?
You argue the the israelites “had” to fight their enemies because they were sensed ruled. serial killers of the psychopathic variety literally can’t help themselves, they have to kill, there is something off with their brains. Are you suggesting we let them continue to murder people because they “have to?”
God doesn’t force things on people. No, he just lets his people force things on other people. and I don’t mean “let” in the “god let’s bad things happen,” he explicitly says, slavery is an okay thing to do.
<When they were in Egypt, did God tell them to fight the Egyptians? When they were chased by the Egyptians, did God tell them to fight them? What happened? God saved them without fighting. But after all that and many miracles God performed, did they believe and trust in God’s ability to save them? NO, they didn’t>
I’m glad you bring up Egypt because now we can talk about not just what God thinks is allowable, but the actual actions that God made. I want to remind you, because you seem to forget, that God is all powerful and God is all knowing. This means that God has not only an infinite number of options for any situation, but he has an infinite number of “Best” options for any situation, and not only that, but as a kind, just, benevolent God who values all life, he has an infinite number of “best” options that doesn’t involve the death a single man, women, or child. And that’s why we see in Exodus God puts all of the Egyptians to sleep and allows all the slaves to flee Egypt without any bloodshed or death. Well that’s what we would see if the OT God was all those things Christians like to claim he is. What we see instead is a hardened pharaoh’s heart and plagues, famine, disease, hailstorms, and perpetual darkness. Hundreds if not thousands would have died and that is before god reached down and murdered children in their beds. My favorite part of the exodus story is when this kind, just, benevolent God murders the slaves and the captives of the people he is mad at for owning slaves (Exodus 11:4-5, and 12:29). These are completely superfluous deaths. The slaves didn’t do anything wrong, they were in the same predicament as the Hebrews for crying out loud. and Pharaoh doesn’t give to shakes of a stick about their lives, so their deaths wouldn’t do anything to spur him to free the Hebrews. Again, of course God could have just not hardened Pharaoh’s heart to start with, or just put all the Egyptians to sleep at the beginning of the ordeal, or, i don’t know not have allowed his people to languish in slavery for 430 years to begin with. All viable options. but no, OT god prefers to solve his problems with death and destruction.
<. As I said before, slavery and killing your enemies are rules of war. If you don’t agree with that, then I don’t know if you actually know what war means.>
I understand wars are terrible things. But killing your enemies and enslaving your enemies are not necessary rules of war. We have this thing called the Geneva Convention. We don’t kill our POWs, we don’t rape the survivors, sometimes we have to be reminded not to torture our POWs but we are working on it. There are rules of engagement even, rules for when you can fire upon your enemy. Of course not every is going to follow the Geneva convention, but does that mean the Geneva convention shouldn’t exist? you keep suggesting that the israelites weren’t going to follow God’s laws so God had to make different laws. What kind of sense does that make? Remind me was God supposed to bend his will to the israelites, or were the israelites supposed to bend their will to God’s? What kind of all powerful deity makes laws based on what people were going to do anyways? How does “they were going to do it anyways” makes those actions moral or just? The laws we see the govern warfare and slavery in the OT are not indicative of a moral and just God, they are indicative of a group of people who were exactly like every other group of people of their time, otherwise we would have based the Geneva convention off of those OT laws, because they would have been the best laws to govern warfare, moral guideposts in the messy if not necessary business of war. They fail utterly in that regard.
<You said: Judges 6:1 God is using the midianites to punish the Israelites for disobeying him, and then God is going to turn around and punish the midianites for doing the thing he wanted them to do in the first place.>
In what world does Judges 6:1 reveal the fairness of God? God does not need the midianites to punish the israelites. God is more than happy to use other israelites to kill other israelites (exodus 32: 27-29) or poisonous snakes (numbers 21:6). Or he could send plagues, he seems to enjoy plagues. God has no problem manipulating other people, Pharaoh, King david. I see nothing fair about manipulating someone into doing your dirty work, and then punishing those people for doing the thing you manipulated them into doing. There is a word for that, it is called entrapment.
<Thank you for pointing out how fair God is; yes He also used the Midianites to punish Israel. The Midianites didn’t just pop up from nowhere. Read their history, why did God want them destroyed (Start from Numbers 22-25 or you can go back from Genesis if you want to know who they are, their origin). God always had reasons for everything.>
Numbers 22-25, this is beautiful actually. I love when grown adults believe that God can make a donkey talk, but has to resort to manipulation, murder, disease, and destruction in order to accomplish his will.
God wanted the midinites to be destroyed because of Numbers 22-25? First of all it was Balak the king of the Moabites who tried to curse the Israelites 3 times, unsuccessfully I might add, so no harm, no foul. Second the midinities don’t pop up until Chapter 25 and what was their big crime? Enticing the israelites to worsihp Baal? God supposedly gave everybody free will so they would have the ability to freely choose to worship him or not, but he is going to kill you if you don’t do exactly as he says. That is kind of the opposite of free will. Sure people aren’t robots, but doing as you say out of fear of death isn’t exactly the same thing as love and devotion. Seriously if a couple of pretty girls could entice the israelites to forsake Jehovah, that is on the isrealites not the midianites. And what reasons would the midianites have for not worshipping Baal? As you said yourself after all the miracles, the deliverance, the israelites still couldn’t stick with the OT God, so why would the midianites just suddenly drop Baal? What kind of proselytizing has the OT God done for the midianites? Seriously he couldn’t spend any time convincing the midianites not to worship Baal through more diplomatic means, but nope, more death and destruction from that kind, loving, just, benevolent God.
<Isn’t it possible that Eleazar just took them to stay with him? After all, nowhere does it say they became his wives or slaves. All you have here is an assumption because of your ‘cynical view’ which is understandable as skeptic. Isn’t it possible that he adopted them?>
Could Eleazar have adopted the 32 virgins? Yes that is a possibility, I can grant you that, but is it plausible? I can provide a number of instances where the Bible indicates typical Israelite behavior would be to hold them as slaves and concubines, a number of passages we have discussed already, but there are more, always more. Sometimes the actions are approved by God, other times he is strangely silent, but offers no discipline, implying a tacit approval. What we haven’t discussed are instances in the Bible that would make your adoption theory plausible, I am open to considering some, if you have any to provide. But even if your adoption theory is true did those 32 women want to be adopted? Were they given the choice to go home to their families, Oh yeah, the isrealites had just killed all of their families. And none of that deals with the fact God approved of the practice of taking human tributes.
This section is too long to quote all of the relevant pieces of it. You are just going to have to deal with going back and reading your own argument <As you can see, it’s the WOMEN who enticed them, not men; what leads to your next comment
Thank you for the clarification on the verses, my translation was less specific. In regards to the question though, which was “But regardless you seem to be suggesting that say a 6-year-old boy would be polluted by the practice of idolatry, whereas a 12-year-old girl would not be. I don’t see how that makes sense, perhaps you could offer some clarification.” You take pains to point out that it was the women who enticed the israelites men to commit idolatry, and then launch into a convoluted theory as to why the boys had to be killed. I’m not sure what “the imagination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth” has to do anything with women enticing men to commit idolatry, or why they needed to kill young boy POWs. And the young boys couldn’t grow up and destroy them from within, the israelites have an all powerful deity in their corner remember.
<Before you want to categorize, ‘man’ as, every human being (male and female); no, it clearly says, “I will never again curse the ground BECAUSE OF MAN”.>
One last thing on this, Exodus 21:16, that verse you like so much is also a verse that is specifically about kidnapping someone with a penis. As you can see we are dealing a lot with kidnapping people with vaginas and keeping them as slaves, so Exodus 21:16 really isn’t the shield you keep thinking that it is.
<He is a all-knowing God who knows the ends from the beginning; He knew they would never change; after all if you don’t believe, He actually gave them 400 years to repent (Genesis 15:13-16).>
He gave them 400 years to repent? we are talking about murdering children here, he didn’t give children 400 years to repent. Every person has an opportunity to make up their own minds, and not blindly follow their parents, or else i’d be a Christian right now and my mother would be a much happier person.
Again, murdering children, captive children no less, by an all knowing, all powerful God who has an infinite number of best solutions none of which involve murdering a child, and the solution he comes up with is infantcide. You worship a deity whose first answer is always death and destruction. Assimiliation seems the much more moral option, consequences be damned. At least you didn’t murder a child. The ends never justify the means. What is the cliche? The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
<I get your point but how can marriage be sexual slavery? The fact that they were commanded to take them as wife in itself suggests that this isn’t slavery the way you try to portray it to be. Slavery has no respect of marriage, since they can rape or do anything to their captives. Why marriage then?>
If you are asking how marriage can be sexual slavery you do not get my point. you are far, far from understanding my point. And the fact that I even need to have this conversation with you embodies every reason why I am not a Christian.
Let’s start with spousal rape is real. Just because a man is married to a woman does not entitle him to her body anytime he damn well pleases. So that is one way that marriage can be sexual slavery, and that is starting with two people who actually agreed to be married to one another in the first place. Despite what the Bible would have you believe wives and daughters are not the property of their husbands and fathers, they are not property at all, they are human beings and are entitled to, if nothing else, basic human dignity as such.
Next let’s ask ISIS. ISIS goes into a town captures women, kills their families and then forces the women to marry their fighters. You think that is a marriage? You think that doesn’t constitute rape? https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/14/iraq-isis-escapees-describe-systematic-rape
Just because you use the word Marriage, doesn’t actually make it a marriage. Sarah gave her slave Hagar to be Abraham’s wife. You think that is a marriage? You think Hagar had a choice in the matter, you think Hagar wanted to raped over and over again so she could bear Abraham’s children? The text doesn’t say Hagar volunteered to help Sarah out, the Bible makes it pretty clear that Sarah treated Hagar miserably, but yeah sure she was “married” to Abraham. Just because you use a word doesn’t make it so.
The 12 tribes of Israel were conceived by 4 different women. Rachel and Leah were procured in a business arrangement that Jacob made with their father, and while they were having an offspring war (because their worth was tied to not the fact that they were people, but to how many children they could have) they also gave their slaves to Jacob to be his “wives” so they could literally steal their children for their own. You think Zilpah and Bilhah had a choice in the matter? No, they didn’t, because they were slaves.
If I was a soldier and killed a terrorist’s entire family, but kidnapped his daughter, brought her back to the states, away from anything she has ever known and had sex with her (raped her), that wouldn’t make it a marriage, even if I said it did. She may even say she wants to be my wife, she may say she wants to have sex with me, but because there is a very strong likelihood I would kill her if she said no, after all I did just kill her entire family, everyone she has ever known or loved, that is duress, not consent. I don’t need to prove how bad the slavery the israelites engaged in was, I can and I will her in a little bit, but for this particular part of the conversation it is completely irrelevant. It is not the quality of care that defines slavery, it is the lack of freedom that defines slavery. I could treat my terrorist’s daughter to the top of the nines, best food and clothes, lavish gifts, fancy hotels, but if she didn’t willingly choose to be with me, or if that choice was based on death being the only alternative then it is slavery and rape. And there is no such thing as good slavery or good rape. Frankly your cavalier attitude towards treating women as property is truly frightening to me.
from your original post you have this truly fantastic rose-colored glasses view of how the israelites engaged in slavery. A large chunk of your argument seems to be, correct me if i’m wrong, that the israelites were terrible at following God’s laws, so God had to let them engage in slavery. You then assume that they followed all of Gods laws on slavery, even though they were terrible at following God’s laws. Let’s be realistic if the speed limit is 30 people are going to drive 35, if the speed limit is 40 people are going to drive 50, if the speed limit is 60, people are going to drive 75, thats the way it is. You give them an inch they are going to take a mile. Assuming all of God’s slavery laws were good laws (they’re not) there are a million different ways to exploit them. You are supposed to free your (male, hebrew) slaves in the year of jubilee, but nothing that says you can’t manipulate the situation so they want/need to submit themselves to slavery again. Shoot exodus 21:4-6 throws in a loophole right away. You say they could buy their freedom, how are they going to do that their master controls how much money they earn? Slaves in the US could buy their freedom too, how often do you think that happened? 1800s chattel slavery was no big deal, they could buy their freedom
Exodus 21:7-11 a man has three responsibilities to a slave he buys to be his wife (she is still a slave) He has to feed her, clothe her, and have sex with her. He is literally commanded to rape her. If he fails in any of these three things he is supposed to let her go for nothing. But who exactly is going to make him? who determines what an adequate amount of food, or clothing is? And if she is let go, where is she going to go, what is she going to do? What if she had children, is she supposed to just leave them?
Exodus 21: 20-21 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.”
“For the slave is his money” you do realize that is the actual definition of chattel slavery right? This verse takes specific pains to specify you can beat both your male and female slaves, and draws no distinction between Hebrew and foreign slaves. literally the only thing they cannot do is kill the slave. Beat him/her within an inch of his/her life, you are fine so long as they survive a day or two (I’ve always wondered what happens if the slave dies on the third day, he the slave to be avenged because of his/her death, or is he/she not to be avenged because he/she survived or day or two, I feel like we need a little more specificity here). But you are right, US slavery was so much worse, because they could kill their slaves without worrying about being avenged. How progressive of God to draw the line at murdering human beings. Oh and if you maim your slave by poking out their eye, then they can go for free (Exodus 21:26), of course they were already a slave as a full bodied individual so where exactly are they going to go now that you’ve maimed them, go be someone else’s slave and hope they don’t poke out the other eye? And that is the only punishment, no eye for an eye in this case, you just lose some of your property, property that you maimed.
<Show me that they enslaved them the way you try to portray the slavery as in torture and hard labor. Show that to me, like how the Egyptians did to the Israelites. YOU CAN’T because that’s not what happened otherwise they would have recorded it.”>
Actually I can, because they did record it. Naturally they didn’t just come out and say “rule over your slaves ruthlessly, but they managed to make it pretty darn clear in Leviticus 25:39-46.
We start in verse 39-43: “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: 40 he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. 41 Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. 42 For they are my servants,[e] whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. 43 You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God.”
you are not to rule over your Hebrew brothers ruthlessly like the Egyptians did to you. Reminder that is specifically Hebrew, and that is specifically male. that is the full extent of who you are not to rule over ruthlessly.
then we transition to 44-45 and the first half of 46: “As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. 45 You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. 46 You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them
We have drawn a clear distinction here between Male hebrew slaves, and foreign born slaves. Male Hebrew slaves you are not to make slaves of them and you are not to rule over them ruthlessly. Foreign born slaves you can make slaves of them, and no reminder not to rule over them ruthlessly. This is really strange if the israelites were not supposed to rule over anyone ruthlessly because the second part of verse 46 we swing back around and get a second reminder not to rule over specifically male Hebrew slaves ruthlessly “but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.”
Seriously Leviticus 25: 39-46 is the ideal place to say “hey, don’t rule over any of your slaves ruthlessly” if that was going to happen, but that is not what we see, we see “don’t rule over your male hebrew slaves ruthless, you can do what you like with everybody else.”
even if your rose-colored glasses view of israelites’ slavery is true, and they all perfectly followed the law, the law still allows them to do pretty terrible things. And even if they didn’t do those terrible things, my objection does not center on what the israelites did or did not do, my objection, once again, is centered on what an all powerful, all knowing, kind, just, moral, and benevolent God made permissible in the first place. And seriously you don’t have any philosophical issues with slavery as a social safety net? You are telling me that the deity who created the universe that requires such fine tuning that if the radiation was just a little off we would all die, if gravity was just a little off we would all die, if the earth were just a little further or closer to the sun, we would all die, you are telling me the God who did all that, that his best plan for a social safety net is “voluntary slavery” that’s what you are going with? This guy fed 2-3 million people with literal bread from heaven for 40 years, and voluntary slavery is his best plan for a social safety net?!? Are you sure you want to stick with that? I mean you have to, the Bible doesn’t give you a whole lot of wiggle room there, but perhaps it’s time you took those rose colored glasses off.
Yes, I have a cynical view of the Bible, I freely admit that. I came about my cynical view of the Bible because I realized I had no reason to believe a book as both “good” and “true” because that book told me that it was both “good” and “true.” That is called circular reasoning. Take yourself out of that circle for a minute and stop making justifications because you have to believe that the Bible is good and start evaluating the Bible on whether or not it is *actually* good and true.
Give the whole world free will, then drown the whole world for not acting the way you want them too, yup that is pretty terrible. Destroy a city for wanting to gang rape two men, save the guy who offered to let them gang rape his two daughters instead, yup that is pretty terrible. You’re mad at a country for enslaving your people, murder their other slaves because #reasons, yup that is pretty terrible. There is no justification for these things, no amount of “god works in mysterious ways” that make those actions good and just and moral, and noble, and that’s just a few examples from like the first 3 percent of the Bible. And not even all the examples I could have picked from that first 3 percent.
I don’t think you are a terrible person, but you believe in and worship a deity who you believe did some terrible things, and that doesn’t seem to bother you at all, and that scares me. That scares me to my core about Christianity and America. you spend your time trying to rationalize and justify why these terrible things were actually good things, but no they are just terrible things. Terrible things that made a little nation who kept getting conquered again and again feel better about themselves, that’s it, and it’s time for you to let go, take off those rose colored glasses, read the Bible for what it is, accept that your not going to heaven, you are not going to hell, there is no God. If it makes you feel better, there is no historical evidence that any sizable population of Hebrews were ever enslaved in Egypt let alone 600,000 men plus their families (some 2-3 million people), no historical evidence that the 10 plagues of Egypt ever happened (Egyptians were really good at keeping records) No mainstream scholar, Jew, Christian, or skeptic who believes that Moses was a real person, not historical evidence of any sort of Canaanite conquest, particularly on the scale that the Bible indicates. No historical evidence that 2-3 million Hebrews wondering around the desert for 40 years, we’ve looked and the dessert is relatively small. We do for whatever reason have the historical records of much smaller nomadic Hebrew tribes worshiping a tribal storm God Yahweh who was a part of a much larger pantheon, who had a consort named Asherah, and reported to a supreme deity named El, and how Yahweh and El eventually gradually merged as the same deity over the years.
If any one of those things about the Exodus story is untrue it collapses the claims of an inerrant Bible, and we don’t have one thing, we have a list, and that’s just about one story. But the story isn’t just one story, its the basis of almost all Jewish culture and identity, and it never happened. That coupled with the fact that we do have historical evidence that biblical mythology grew and developed just like all other mythologies in the world and didn’t spring fully formed at the beginning of the world. Well, like I said, it is just time to let go.