What is there to say about slavery and the Bible? Especially the Old Testament? (MERGED)


Some of the thing in the bible are hard to reconcile and i cant say i agree with all of it.
Even if i reason that perhaps God allows people and cultures to evolve on their own without His interference it still would sound cruel and unjust.

Another example,when the bible mentions a rapist should marry his victim (to spare her from cultural shame and stigma i presume?)
Why instead of this “solution” didn’t God instead tell the people to not blame the woman when shes raped and that the shame should not be on her-why didnt he educate the culture instead?


Jimmy Akin has a lot to say about the “dark passages” in the Bible.

Here is his opinion on Jesus v Slavery, not sure if it is what you were looking for:


Her is another article on wh God allows suffering:

Here is an article by Akin in the NCR on why God allows sin and suffering:

Also the Church always condemned so-called “chattel slavery” where human beings were treated as property, and Pope St Pius V forbade slvaery in the new world (whch the Spanish and Portuguese authorities sadly ignored). The type of slavery practiced by the Israelites was more a form of indentured labour in which the servant had some kinds of rights against his owner (not saying that’s a good thing, but labour relations were not in their infancy) and religious festivities often required the freeing of slaves.

I will post new articles as soon as I find them.

Also clerics like St Peter Claver and Charles Martial Lavigerie (founder of the White Fathers missionary Priest order) were strong campaigners for the abolition of slavery.

During the US civil war, the senior Catholic Bishop, John Hughes, supported the union and Lincoln even sent him as an envoy to Italy and France to counter pro-southern sentiment there.


Where is that?


To me, your solution and the Bible’s solution are identical. Deut. 22:25-27 says, “if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But to the young woman you shall do nothing; in the young woman there is no offense punishable by death, for this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor; because he came upon her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.”

Notice that it says clearly that if a girl is raped she has done nothing wrong. According to verses 23-24, she only did something wrong if she consented.


It’s important to realise that the old testament slbeing ave is a completely different social position to the slavery you are probably thinking of (if you’re thinking of the slavery that was common in modern history Europe and the Americas.)

It would be best to call the old testament slaves “bondslaves” they were bonded to their masters for seven years and in the seventh year they had to be set free- unless they wanted to stay with their master (see Exodus 21:5-6).you may not see this but this was in essence an employment contact. We are talking about a time when people literally starved to death and many people voluntarily went into “slavery”. It was actually a great mercy that if they did choose to stay their master had to keep them on.

Many bondslaves owed their masters a debt, today people like this can end up in jail, in old testament times they worked for these masters
In the context of the old testament times far from being oppressive the system of slavery was a mercy.

I often think this was why God allowed men to continue in their error and have many wives at this time, though it is clearly against His plan for marriage. In a society like this a single woman was in serious danger of starving to death, or as they are unprotected they could have been treated violently or raped (hence care for widows being a common theme in the bible).

I encourage you to read more about the context of this time and the reasons why people became bondslaves


Exodus 21;
20 When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.

Employment contract? Far from being oppressive? Slavery a mercy?

Oh my.


This was the way of social end economic organization back then


I’m not sure how much of the history you know but yes, it was a mercy. This is not slavery as we know it if you are thinking of European/ American slavery in the 18th century.

We are talking of a land where people would STARVE to death in famine and disease. You can’t possibly look at it with a 21st century lens


I would remind to exodus 21 is dealing with the very words of God to Moses (see Exodus 20 the beginning if the discourse).

I would hesitate before I cast moral judgement on it. This is the God revealed in scripture, the God that men by their sinful nature reject, but who is wise and merciful in all His judgements.


Gods ways are not our ways, its that simple, Sure, in our society, these things are frowned upon, but with slavery, it is only very recently that this has been frowned upon, most of the founding fathers had slaves and agreed with the practice.

We struggle with these things because our minds do not work like Gods, so its only logical we try to say God is wrong and we are right…when in reality, when we die, we will likely find out it was us that was in the wrong.


Why did God allow war, murder, rape, incest, greed, lust, etc?

He didn’t specifically allow or authorize any of those things, including slavery.

What he did was give man free-will. Man’s fall, through the unwise exercise of free will is what “allowed” it.

The sins of the world are man’s doing, not God’s!


Its such a pity those statements in the bible are not addressed or more adequately interpreted to us Catholics.

It can be very difficult when you are placed in a position where an atheist refers to those writings and you can’t explain. It has happened to me and I have to admit that in my ignorance I dismissed them by saying they were not to be taken literally.
Then I was accused of “bible cherry picking”.


People were sacrificing children, cannibals, incestuous. Homosexual gang rape and child prostitution are all common in the Old Testament.

The laws in the Old Testament, including those about slavery, were God’s first controls on what had become a completely out of control situation.

The laws were not meant to be permanent nor the complete solution but only the first step in a plan which would culminate in God himself becoming man to teach us how to love.

That’s all.



Thanks for those instructive details Tim.


Slavery was the bedrock of civil society at the time.

It was not the goal of the Holy Spirit to overturn the civil society, but to transcend it by preparing for the coming of our LORD, and everlasting life. Societies come and go.

It would have done no good to eliminate slavery and then have a new country take over and reinstate it.



2000 years from now, people will be asking why did God permit the enslavement, the dismemberment, the selling, the freezing, the manipulation, the killing for body parts of the unborn child.

It is allowed because people and society are given free will to make decisions.
Evil exists because we decide that it should.
Slavery existed then and exits now because our world says yes to it.
God works with us where we are at.


Not much regard for a child in the mothers womb either. Clearly regarded as much less of a person, if a person at all, unfortunately.
Kill a baby in the mothers womb? Just pay off the husband.

Ex. 21; 22
When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands…
If any harm follows (i.e. death of the mother), then you shall give life for life…

Murder a slave though and it’s okay (as long as they don’t die instantly but suffer for a few days first before dying of their injuries). After all, the person you murdered was your property.


I know that some people get terribly hung up in the stories and events of the Bible. This is especially so in the stories in the Hebrew Scriptures.

This has never been my problem. I see the History of a people. I see a history of a people becoming a nation. The laws were harsh, yes. Life was hard. This is a history of people that it is not unlike the history of all peoples throughout the world.

It is not a fairy story white washed and politically correct. It is real. It is honest. It is a story of iron, strength and courage.

These men and women did not see themselves as pathetic victims. The women in these scriptures would walk over and spit on the weak and whining feminists of today.


The idea of guilt only counting if the death was immediate was meant to distinguish between a master intending to kill or a master intending to punish which results in death.

Am I comfortable with this saying? No! But must it be read in context? Yes, in its cultural and economic context. I am prepared to maintain that the law was just, because it was given by God to Moses as the way to judge the Israelite people.
Who am I to judge the moral judgements of the Creator of the universe? God is not the prisoner at the bar to be judged by man, God sits on the judgement seat perfectly holy and every man is full of sin.


Intentionally killing someone is wrong, but injuring someone so severely that they eventually die as a result is right? We call the latter manslaughter and we have laws against that. The penalties for manslaughter aren’t as severe as those for murder, but they are severe.

The idea that one can manslaughter another without penalty is wrong. The idea that one can beat another person that they own is wrong on multiple levels.

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