It is one of several arguments against the bible, slavery.
The text of this week’s scripture reading is Exodus 21:1-24:18 and it lists the conditions under which slavery operates. From a cursory reading it would appear that the Lord is sanctioning slavery to the newly freed slaves of Egypt. Taken out of its historical and cultural context this would seem to be the case.
If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. (Exodus 21:2)
The nation of Israel enslaved in Egypt were set free by the mighty hand of God. Once free, they still were apart of a global economy that used slavery instead of employment. There was no minimum wage or worker’s rights during the time of Moses.
Most people did not own land, if you did not own land in an agrarian based society how could you feed your family? That is why land ownership and personal property was such an important part of the American success story.
For the landless lower-class, servitude was an attractive option. It offered the acquisition of meaningful skills, lifelong employment and food and shelter for a person and his dependents.
The scripture was given to change the nature of slavery from the ugly mistreatment experienced in Egypt to ensure the well being of the enslaved in Israel. The bible outlines how to treat people well in slavery and employment (a different form of slavery).
What most believers fail to remember is that we too were slaves who were bought with a price. We belong to the Lord, but there is a difference. He allows us to freely choose to continue with Him as our Lord whereas the “god” of this world does not allow such a choice.
Satan declares himself a god and demands that we submit or die. Jesus on the other hand, dies and then asks for us to choose Him or reject Him. Slaves before the giving of the Word of God had no rights, but in the Torah that changes.
According to scripture slaves were to be treated as hired servants. They were to be given their freedom after six years if they wanted it. They not to be sexually mistreated or killed. If someone killed a slave they were subject to the death penalty like everyone else.
We can learn from this scripture portion that the Lord wants us to treat people well. An employer can mistreat his or her servant just as in days of old, but the bible warns us that we should not behave badly to those we employ. Workers should work as unto the Lord and not steal, but employers should pay their people on time.
The Lord is concerned with the oppressed people that belong to Him. He would prefer that we would all choose Him, but He has given us a choice and that means that sometimes people don’t choose Him.
This world is fallen and imperfect, as a result it is also filled with imperfect people who will choose to do evil things including oppressing and enslaving others. The Lord has accounted for this and tells us that this will only last for a season.
Jesus declared in His sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”. The meek in that statement can be misleading if not understood in a biblical context. While “meek” in Greek implies one who is mild-mannered, gentle, soft, and passive, it is not the same word used in Psalms.
For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more … but the humble will inherit the land. (Psalm 37:9-11)
It seems likely that Jesus was quoting this verse. The Hebrew word for “earth” (eretz) also means “land” and in this context it refers specifically to the holy land, i.e., the land of Israel. If it is true that this was the verse the Lord was referencing back to, then what is meant by the humble.
The Hebrew word used here is anavim. It can refer to the downtrodden, the oppressed and/or the enslaved. Let’s try Matthew 5:5 with this new understanding, “Blessed are the subjugated and downtrodden, for they will inherit the land of Israel.”
Keep in mind a Messianic Kingdom view. Currently, there are evil people who want to enslave or kill anyone that does not submit to their will or ideology. They desire to remove and restrict freedoms and liberties in the name of false gods. They are gaining strength for a season.
The Lord knows what is happening now just as He knew what would happen in the past, that the nature of the enemy and those who follow him is the steal, kill and destroy, but also to enslave. The Lord is allowing these things to happen so that we can choose the current slavery or freedom.
He will not force us to choose Him, but delaying the choice is also a choice to remain slaves to the enemy. Choose this day whom you will serve while there is still time.