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2012-01-10

The bible isn’t really clear on whether or not the following laws are said when Moses is up on Mount Sinai, or whether he’s talking with God in the shadows. Since nobody is there to corroborate the conversation, it doesn’t really matter. So, for the upcoming list of laws, I’m going to skip drawing Moses chatting to himself in the dark, and give you more interesting illustrations.

Exodus 21:1-6 is one of the most often quoted passages by people who want to point out the barbarism of the bible. It is God’s instructions for dealing with your slaves. Not just any slaves, mind you, but slaves from your own tribe. That’s right, God is perfectly okay with having his chosen people enslaved, but just so long as it doesn’t go beyond six years.

Well, that’s not exactly true, God creates a loophole that allows the Hebrew people to keep their slaves forever. You see, if you buy a slave and he has a wife, then at the end of six years, he gets to leave with his wife and any children he has accrued during the enslavement. However, if the slave-owner gives the slave a wife, then the wife and any children they have, remain the slave-owner’s property. The slave cannot take his family with him when he is released from bondage. Someone get a message to Focus On the Family, God sanctions splitting up families!

But wait, there is a way where the slave can keep his family, all he has to do is beg his owner to become a slave forever! God even explains how you mark a slave for permanent bondage. The owner hammers a metal spike through the slave’s ear and into a door. Sexy, no?

But this pretty much guarantees that you can keep any unmarried male slave you buy. Of course, if someone gave you a wife, you probably wouldn’t give up your freedom for her on the first day. But just imagine six years of being married to that woman—living together, learning to love each other, raising children together—when the six year deadline hits, would you just up and leave the family you’ve grown so attached to? Of course not. You’ll surrender your freedom and become a permanent slave in order to remain with them.

Apologists will often point out that slaves in the bible were treated better than the slaves we’re familiar with from American history. To counter, I tend to point out that they’re actually defending slavery. They argue that they’re simply clarifying the definition of slavery. I remind them that slavery is always bad, regardless of how little the slave is beaten. They come up with some crazy excuse for why slavery was acceptable at the time, and I, again, remind them that they’re defending slavery. Their logic tends to derail at this point.

It’s probably safe to assume that the earliest forms of the bible didn’t have God explaining how to drive a spike through the ear of his chosen people in order to permanently brand them as slaves. This was most most likely an addition added centuries later by the priestly source to better control slaves at the time.

 

Comments

Baughbe writes:

 

You know what? I bet if you told a bunch of really 'faithful' that hammering a spike through thier own ear would be a way to show thier servitude to god and point out this section as example, they'd do it.

Maju writes:

 

This is the kind of "Bible discourse" that supported slavery 150 years ago. Nothing surprising but today's hypocrisy.

Samael writes:

 

For that matter, 150 years ago, laws were passed making it illegal for slaves to learn to read the Bible, despite some of them having converted to Christianity. Priests were less than happy to acknowledge the possibility that slaves could be saved and would join them in the afterlife, despite Jesus Christ having said so in the same book.

someguy writes:

 

soooo... everyone who wears earrings has accidentally agreed to be enslaved forever! or does the nail have to end up in a door... that seems unnecessarily cruel.

Yeshivakid writes:

 

"The owner hammers a metal spike through the slave’s ear and into a door."

That's a bit of a harsh way to describe an earring, TAG. That's all it's really referring to. It was probably misunderstood and mashed together over the years as it was translated. I'm pretty sure the original statement involves piercing the slave's ear, and affixing a similar post to your house, so people would know where he belongs. Kind of like branding an animal with your known family crest/symbol, but in jewelry form.

The rest of it though, is indeed barbaric. Though I distinctly remember learning about this passage in school, and how we were told that when Hebrews took Hebrew slaves, it was usually more in a "servant" capacity, or an indentured position to pay off a debt.
That could very well be apologetic, but considering the fact that there are actually rules in the OT about being elitist (I remember something like you're not allowed to charge unfair interest to other Jews, but to non-Jews is fine, and other things), I wouldn't be surprised if Hebrew slaves were an "upper class" of slaves. Still doesn't allow them to bring their family alone if they leave, but it's all relative.

Yeshivakid writes:

 

Makes you think about all those modern guys who pierce one ear because it's "cool". Back in ancient times, they'd be mistaken for lifelong slaves. :p

makan writes:

 

<b> makan </b>


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Oh the irony!