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Protection for Slaves

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Protection for Slaves

God’s Law protected the rights and dignity even of slaves.

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. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.”

Slaves in the ancient world before the Gospel had no rights and were typically worked to death—literally. Israel knew something about being slaves, and they knew this was not a happy condition for anyone. While the Law of God allowed for slaves, the New Testament moved away from the practice—although not in a revolutionary manner—and subsequent Christian history frowned on it and worked to end it. It’s a sad testimony to the state of Christian faith in the early modern period that chattel slavery was so much a part of the success of colonial economies.

Slaves in ancient Israel enjoyed certain protections. Owners were discouraged from abusing them and could expect to pay a price if, by mistreatment, they actually killed a slave. To be a slave in Israel was not the same as being a slave in a pagan nation. In Israel, at least, one’s life was protected by Law

Order a copy of The Law of God from our online store and begin daily reading in the commandments, statutes, testimonies, precepts, and rules of God, which are the cornerstone of divine revelation. Sign up at our website to receive our thrice-weekly devotional, Crosfigell, written by T. M. Moore.

In the Gates is a devotional series on the Law of God by Rev. T. M. Moore, editor of the Worldview Church. He serves as dean of the Centurions Program of the Wilberforce Forum and principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He is the author or editor of twenty books, and has contributed chapters to four others. His essays, reviews, articles, papers, and poetry have appeared in dozens of national and international journals, and on a wide range of websites. His most recent books are The Ailbe Psalter and The Ground for Christian Ethics (Waxed Tablet).

Scripture quotations in this article are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, (c) copyright 2001, 2007 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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