Biblical Principle #258: Israel’s Guidelines for Prosecuting Slave Abuse

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Under the Law of Moses, God gave Israel guidelines for when to prosecute slave abuse.


Under the Law of Moses, GOD permitted Israelites to own slaves under certain conditions. However, GOD also gave guardrails for when to prosecute the assault of slaves as having gone too far:

20 If a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, and he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. 21 Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, the lord shall not be punished; for he is his property.

Exodus 21:20-21 OSB

At the time, slave ownership was ubiquitous in all nations. GOD gave other instructions about Israel’s slave ownership which are beyond the scope of this Principle, which is squarely focused upon the administration of criminal justice according to the court system GOD prescribed.

In modern Western culture, people have been conditioned to be repulsed by the mere thought of slavery, and perhaps we should be. I certainly dislike the thought of being someone else’s property, don’t you?

But we are also faced with the difficult question of why GOD would permit His chosen people to own slaves when it seems so repulsive to us today. The scope of this question is beyond that of this Principle.

What we know is that GOD is love, GOD is holy, and GOD is just. Therefore, GOD would not permit something that is, on the surface, purely evil.

GOD is eternal and He is self-existent, therefore, He has need of no one and nothing. There is no reason for GOD to change who He is, ever, nor will He, for His character will not allow Him to change.

There are many things that GOD does, allows, and does not allow which we do not understand. Ultimately, we must choose to accept that He sees what we cannot see, that His intent is for our good always, and that we are not in control (He is!) anyway, therefore, we should simply allow Him to do what He does and be thankful that He gives us the opportunity to be blessed by being part of the journey.

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