Looking for passges to justify Abraham having a slave


Can’t find any yet.


Getting nothing at all here. Read the entire Hebrew Bible and can’t get a grasp on this.


Why? Do you want one yourself?
Abraham was a product and indeed a slave of his culture and times; a times waiting for a saviour.


Are you trying to show that he had one…or show good reason for him to have one?



You don’t have to justify it. God never forbade having slaves but he gave guidelines about how they should be treated e.g. Deuteronomy ch. 15
Christians also were not forbidden to have slaves. Paul even gave some admonitions to slaves and their masters in Ephesians 6:5-9.
Remember, slavery seems wrong to our ‘modern’ sensitivities but throughout the history it was a normal part of life (better than starvation). Slaves were servants, butlers, maids, farm helps, secretaries… Do you get it, most of us are still slaves but we just give it different names :slight_smile:

P.S. I forgot that I live now in North America and here people might be very sensitive to that issue. I was commenting on the ancient societies, not on the horrible slave trade business.


I ask because I think anyone who follows the bible should be able to answer this question.
If you can not justify Abraham having a slave then just say you can not find scriptural support for it.
I am offended that you would ask if I would want a slave myself.
Do you think that everyone asking about anything in the holy scriptures is asking because they seek to do the horrid things that took place in them?
How have you really answered my question?
This is Catholic Answers Forum, and you have given me nada on facts about Abraham. All you have done so far is to hand wave.


You ask if I get it.

I get it.
You just told me that it does not need justification.

Good enough for me.

You are a christian, and you schooled me on this one.


Dear DaddyGirl,

Is it not plain to see he had one? Would there not even be a question if he did not have one?
As far as good reason goes…

Give it your best shot.


I’m pretty sure you don’t undertand what I’m saying. My point was that what we call slaves we associate with that nasty business of North American slave trade. In the ancient times ‘slaves’ were part of the societies. They were usually domestic or personal helpers and as such they were part of the household. They had their sustenance and protection and they worked for it performing different duties. Today, the society is structured differently. We as persons are not owned by somebody, but our time and strength is being used in exchange for money. We are still ‘slaves’ to our employers, but not 24/7.
So, in Bible times, there was nothing wrong with ‘owning’ a slave, what made difference was how did you treat him. And since Abraham was loved by God, (James 2:23 even says that he was God’s friend) we can safely assume that he treated his slaves, or houshold workers, with kindness and care.

P.S. I don’t understand what you meant by your last sentence.


Hi Strawberry Jam, I’ll be honest, I don’t understand the concern you raise either.

There is no need to justify Abraham as owning slaves, I think, for at least three reasons: (1) slavery at the time was often either a form of bond-slavery (to pay back a debt) or an alternative to death (in the case of spoils of war), so should not be considered on the same level morally as the early-modern institution of slavery; (2) God never endorses Abraham’s owning slaves (in fact, He promises to take of her and make a nation of her offspring); and (3) Abraham was not sinless, so even if you believed such ownership of slaves was wrong, that doesn’t invalidate the biblical text.

An important principle of biblical interpretation is to discern between some act that God endorses or commands on the one hand and others that He permits on the other.



Next time, when you post a question with a dishonest intention, think about that the fact that you are wasting time of people who are trying to sincerely help you to find the answer. I bet you, you never even read the scriptures I provided…


Greetings SJ!

Your question is a good one, and like most things about Scripture, we have to step outside our modern minds to answer it.

Remember that slavery was normal and accepted to ALL Biblical societies, and most if not all contemporary ones. It was the framework of ancient economics, as contract labor is today.

And it did not fully pass from the scene until the late 1800s; and arguably then not because our great-grandfathers were more moral than those before them, but only because technology made slavery unnecessary. (If the world were to go back into a “down to nature society” pattern, as some imagine to be desirable; I’d expect slavery in some form to reappear.)

So Scripture does not seek to justify slavery. It was written for a world where the institution was firmly entrenched. It was only the moral values Scripture brought to light that, over the generations, convinced our cultures that it might indeed be wrong.



Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. God’s been working out His plan of salvation through an imperfect, unperfected, humanity.


I wasn’t sure if he had one or not–I’m not so versed in the OT…but was just trying to be clear on your question (since the word “justify” can mean both ways) and what specific you were looking for before I did a search to try and send you some quotes.



I hope you are not a gambler Hortenzie, because you would lose this bet. How much do I win now?
As far as declaring my intention to be dishonest, I must wonder if you were told that by the Holy Spirit.
Since you seem feel that time has been wasted by sincere people trying to help me find an answer, I ask that you allow the sincere posters and myself to continue to discuss the matter so your time will not be wasted. Please refrain from any further comment on this thread.


Did God specify how the slaves ought to be treated? Including the child slaves?
I’m spending time today finding that. That may help me understand the position some took that seem to make slavery in bible times sound much much better than any other type of slavery.


Don’t buy into the notion that "‘biblical slavery’ is so much different/better than ‘chattel slavery’ (a term often used by apologists to refer to things like 19th century slavery). It pretends that the Bible doesn’t say a master can manslaughter his slave. It pretends that a Hebrew slave doesn’t have to beg and give up his freedom to keep his family. It pretends that a slave is treated as a person and not property. It pretends that humanity “wasn’t ready” to abolish slavery even though it required death for much smaller things like working the Sabbath or not circumcising your child, things which unlike slavery are not crimes against humanity. It ignores the fact that those petty favors thrown to Hebrew slaves were not given to non-Hebrew slaves (who were slaves for life). It pretends that the New Testament is silent on slavery.

Do not let people twist cruelty and hate and violence into something noble and honorable and gentle.

If there is one contribution that I can give to this forum is to not let such an argument go unchallenged whenever it pops up.



Do not let people twist cruelty and hate and violence into something noble and honorable and gentle.

If there is one contribution that I can give to this forum is to not let such an argument go unchallenged whenever it pops up.

Not so fast on the New Testament is silent on slavery, it isn’t!

Philemon 1
Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

1 Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

St.Paul uses a Greek term that means slave when he refers to himself, in regards to Jesus!
A slave to Jesus! (St. Paul was also imprisioned at the time of the letter)

To Phile′mon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apph′ia our sister and Archip′pus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philemon’s Love and Faith

4 I** thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love **and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may promote the knowledge of all the good that is ours in Christ.

St. Paul is appealing to the love Philemon has for all those in Christ!
( that will later include Philemons slave) St. Paul is speaking much, by saying very little)

7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

St. Paul has received much comfort and joy from Philemons slave, so again he is appealing to the humanity of Onesimus, a slave, that has helped him, and the mind of Philemon. Power of persuasion. St. Paul must have been a Jedi …lol

Paul’s Plea for Onesimus

**8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an ambassador[a] and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, One′simus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment. **

Onesimus was a runaway slave, Paul refers to him as his child! He appeals to Philemon on behalf of his Child!

11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) **

St.Paul is using a play on words in Greek

Onesimus means useful in Greek, so the runaway slave that was considered useless by his master, is now called St.Paul’s Son, and is said to be useful to. St.Paul, and Philemon!

**12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. **

He tells Philemon, he is sending his heart back to him. How would a person be received, that was called his son, his heart, by such revered figure like St.Paul in the early Church?

13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel; 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will.

Again, St. Paul is giving Philemon the opportunity, to do the right thing, and receive Onesimus back, not as a slave, but a brother in Christ, who was very helpful to St. Paul, and loved by St. Paul so much, he would use the term my son, and my heart, in regards to Onesimus!

**15 Perhaps this is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back for ever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. **

This passage of scripture speaks for itself!

**17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. **

Again, this passage speaks for itself!

19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand, I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

St. Paul employes Philemon to do the right thing!

21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be granted to you.

St. Paul trust that Philemon will do the right thing, but also talks about how he will visit, so Philemon should get the picture, that St. Paul will find out!

You can see how St.Paul made himself a type of Christ, in how he stood before the wayward son and reconciled Onesimus to Philemon, through the love that Philemon had for St. Paul!

Final Greetings and Benediction

23 Ep′aphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristar′chus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

**Btw, how did that letter get back to Philemon if Onesimus did not bring it?

How do we have this letter today, if it be not for Philemon doing the right thing, and taking back Onesimus as a son, a brother, a friend rather than a slave?

If Philemon were to reject St.Paul, and take Onesimus back as a condemned slave, only to be mistreated, then we would never have this wonderful letter that we have today, it would have been tossed out by Philemon!

So the bible does condemn slavery in the New Testament, as you can see from this letter
Peace and love in Christ!

St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote against slavery, I’m sure you could find this online!

We Catholics, do not follow the bible alone, but there is your quick biblical answer!**


I wasn’t saying that the New Testament was silent on slavery, but that people who try to defend slavery in the Bible often try to make it an “Old Testament practice”. No, I agree that the New Testament speak of slavery; although it speaks in favor of it.

So the book of Philemon is a letter from Paul as he’s in prison. He’s writing to Philemon, the owner of a slave named Onesimus.

Onesimus has run away from Philemon. It doesn’t say why he did; but Paul notes that Philemon has called his slave useless. It would be pure speculation on my part, but I would fear for my safety if I was the slave of a master who was angry with me.

Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon and asks that he take him back as a brother and not just a slave. Paul believes his influence to be enough that Philemon will do so, but there we don’t know at all what happened after that (assuming this all really happened). Philemon may have sought retribution on Onesimus for leaving him. He may have sold him to another slaveowner. I can’t say, but the thing is neither can you:

Btw, how did that letter get back to Philemon if Onesimus did not bring it?

How do we have this letter today, if it be not for Philemon doing the right thing, and taking back Onesimus as a son, a brother, a friend rather than a slave?

If Philemon were to reject St.Paul, and take Onesimus back as a condemned slave, only to be mistreated, then we would never have this wonderful letter that we have today, it would have been tossed out by Philemon!

You make assertions that are completely lacking in any evidence. You think that if Philemon took back Onesimus as a slave that he would have had to have thrown out the letter? This wasn’t a throw-away society like today. He could have kept it as a memento, as a conversation piece, as a piece of spare parchment, as a rag. How do we have the letter today? Perhaps Paul wrote a copy of it to keep for his record, or someone close to Philemon received it after he died. Perhaps there never was a letter and it’s allegory. Again, there are no facts to back up what you claim.

So the bible does condemn slavery in the New Testament, as you can see from this letter

In no way, shape, or form does this letter condemn slavery. It supports the owning of one man by another. Paul says he doesn’t want to do anything regarding Onesimus with Philemon’s consent, which shows support for slave-owning. Paul asks that Philemon treat his slave like a brother, yet forces said slave back to his master. Onesimus wanted his freedom and Paul did not oblige. Nowhere in this letter does Paul talk about Onesimus apart from his usefulness to him, like a handy tool.

In the letter Paul talks about being Onesimus’s surrogate father during their time together. Yet would a father, a true loving father, risk the safety and humanity of his child in support of the claims of someone who his child fled from. Absolutely not. It’s absurd to such a degree that I couldn’t imagine someone being so cruel to someone they claimed to love. Paul risked the welfare of Onesimus’s on the hope that Philemon would be compliant with his request. As I noted above, there is no evidence to support Philemon heeded that request.

So, in summation, the Bible give clear support for slavery. The topic of this thread is how to justify Abraham having a slave. The reason is that christianity saw nothing wrong with it.

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