The Bible Against Slavery
An Inquiry into the
|DEFINITION OF SLAVERY,|
|THE MORAL LAW AGAINST SLAVERY,|
"Thou shalt not steal,"
"Thou shalt not covet,"
EX. xxi. 16, |
Separation of man from brutes and things,
|IMPORT OF "BUY" AND "BOUGHT WITH MONEY," |
Servants sold themselves,
|RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES SECURED BY LAW TO SERVANTS,|
|SERVANTS WERE VOLUNTARY,|
Runaway servants not to be delivered to their masters
|SERVANTS WERE PAID WAGES,|
|MASTERS NOT "OWNERS,"|
Servants not subjected to the uses of property,
Servants expressly distinguished from property,
Examination of Gen. xii. 5—"The souls that they have gotten," etc.
Social equality of Servants and Masters,
Condition of the Gibeonites as subjects of the Hebrew Commonwealth,
Egyptian Bondage analyzed,
|"CURSED BE CANAAN," &C.—EXAMINATION OF GEN. ix. 25,|
"FOR HE IS HIS MONEY," &C.—EXAMINATION OF EX. xxi. 20, 21,
EXAMINATION OF LEV. xxv. 44-46,
"Both thy BONDMEN, &c., shall be of the heathen,"
"They shall be your bondmen FOREVER,"
"Ye shall take them as an INHERITANCE," &c.
|EXAMINATION OF LEV. xxv. 39, 40—THE FREEHOLDER
NOT TO "SERVE AS A BOND SERVANT,"|
Difference between Hired and Bought Servants,
Bought Servants the most favored and honored class,
Israelites and Strangers belonged to both classes,
Israelites, servants to the Strangers,
Reasons for the release of the Israelitish Servants in the seventh year,
Reasons for assigning the Strangers to a longer service,
Reasons for calling them the Servants,
Different kinds of service assigned to the Israelites and Stranger,
|REVIEW OF ALL THE
CLASSES OF SERVANTS WITH THE MODIFICATIONS OF EACH,|
Political disabilities of the Strangers,
|EXAMINATION OF EX. xxi. 2-6—"IF THOU BUY AN HEBREW SERVANT," &C.|
|THE CANAANITES NOT SENTENCED TO UNCONDITIONAL EXTERMINATION,|
The spirit of slavery never seeks shelter in the Bible, of its own accord. It grasps the horns of the altar only in desperation — rushing from the terror of the avenger's arm. Like other unclean spirits, it "hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest its deeds should be reproved." [John 3:20.] Goaded to frenzy in its conflicts with conscience and common sense, denied all quarter, and hunted from every covert, it vaults over the sacred enclosure and courses up and down the Bible, "seeking rest, and finding none." [Matthew 12:43].
THE LAW OF LOVE, glowing on every page, flashes around it an omnipresent anguish and despair. It shrinks from the hated light, and howls under the consuming touch, as demons quailed before the Son of God, and shrieked, "Torment us not." [Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28; cf. 1 John 4:18.] At last, it slinks away under the types of the Mosaic system, and seeks to burrow out of sight among their shadows. Vain hope! Its asylum is its sepulchre; its city of refuge, the city of destruction. It flies from light into the sun; from heat, into devouring fire; and from the voice of God into the thickest of His thunders.
If we would know whether the Bible sanctions slavery, we must determine what slavery is. A constituent element, is one thing; a relation, another; an appendage, another. Relations and appendages presuppose other things to which they belong. To regard them as the things themselves, or as constituent parts of them, leads to endless fallacies. A great variety of conditions, relations, and tenures, indispensible to the social state, are confounded with slavery; and thus slaveholding becomes quite harmless, if not virtuous. We will specify some of these.
1. Privation of suffrage. Then minors are slaves.
2. Ineligibility to office. Then females are slaves.
3. Taxation without representation. Then slaveholders in the District of Columbia are slaves.
4. Privation of one's oath in law. Then disbelievers in a future retribution are slaves.
5. Privation of trial by jury. Then all in France and Germany are slaves.
6. Being required to support a particular religion.. Then the people of England are slaves. [To the preceding may be added all other disabilities, merely political.]
7. Cruelty and oppression. Wives, children, and hired domestics are often oppressed; but these forms of cruelty are not slavery.
8. Apprencticeship. The rights and duties of master and apprentice are correlative and reciprocal. The claim of each upon the other results from his obligation to the other. Apprenticeship is based on the principle of equivalent for value received. The rights of the apprentice are secured, equally with those of the master. Indeed, while the law is just to the master, it is benevolent to the apprentice. Its main design is rather to benefit the apprentice than the master. It promotes the interests of the former, while in doing it, it guards from injury those of the latter. To the master it secures a mere legal compensation—to the apprentice, both a legal compensation and a virtual gratuity in addition, he being of the two the greater gainer. The law not only recognizes the right of the apprentice to a reward for his labor, but appoints the wages, and enforces the payment. The master's claim covers only the services of the apprentice. The apprentice's claim covers equally the services of the master. Neither can hold the other as property; but each holds property in the services of the other, and BOTH EQUALLY. Is this slaver?
9. Filial subordination and parental claims. Both are nature's dictates and intrinsic elements of the social state; the natural affections which blend parent and child in one, excite each to discharge those offices incidental to the relation, and constitute a shield for mutual protection. The parent's legal claim to the child's services, while a minor, is a slight return for the care and toil of his rearing, to say nothing of outlays for support and education. This provision is, with the mass of mankind, indispensable to the preservation of the family state. The child, in helping his parents, helps himself—increases a common stock, in which he has a share; while his most faithful services do but acknowledge a debt that money cannot cancel.
10. Bondage for crime. Must innocence be punished because guilt suffers penalties? True, the criminal works for the government without pay; and well he may. He owes the government. A century's work would not pay its drafts on him. He is a public defaulter, and will die so. Because laws make men pay their debts, shall those be forced to pay who owe nothing? The law makes no criminal, PROPERTY. It restrains his liberty, and makes him pay something, a mere penny in the pound, of his debt to the government; but it does not make him a chattel. Test it. To own property, is to own its product. Are children born of convicts, government property? Besides, can property be guilty? Are chattels punished?
11. Restraints upon freedom. Children
are restrained by parents — pupils, by teachers — patients, by physicians
— corporations, by charters — and legislatures, by constitutions. Embargoes,
tariffs, quarantine, and all other laws, keep men from doing as they
please. Restraints are the web of society, warp and woof. Are
they slavery? then civilized society is a giant slave — a government of LAW, the climax of slavery, and its
executive, a king among slaveholders.
12. Compulsory service. A juryman is empanelled against his will, and sit he must. A sheriff orders his posse; bystanders must turn in. Men are compelled to remove nuisances, pay fines and taxes, support their families, and "turn to the right as the law directs," however much against their wills. Are they therefore slaves? To confound slavery with involuntary service is absurd. Slavery is a condition. The slave's feelings toward it, are one thing; the condition itself, is another thing; his feelings cannot alter the nature of that condition. Whether he desires or detests it, the condition remains the same. The slave's willingness to be a slave is no palliation of the slaveholder's guilt. Suppose the slave should think himself a chattel, and consent to be so regarded by others, does that make him a chattel, or make those guiltless who hold him as such?
I may be sick of life, and I tell the assassin so that stabs me; is he any the less a murderer? Does my consent to his crime, atone for it? my partnership in his guilt, blot out his part of it? The slave's willingness to be a slave, so far from lessening the guilt of the "owner," aggravates it. If slavery has so palsied his mind that he looks upon himself as a chattel, and consents to be one, actually to hold him as such, falls in with his delusion, and confirms the impious falsehood. These very feelings and convictions of the slave, (if such were possible) increase a hundred fold the guilt of the master, and call upon him in thunder, immediately to recognize him as a MAN, and thus break the sorcery that cheats him out of his birthright—the consciousness of his worth and destiny.
Many of the foregoing conditions are appendages of slavery. But no one, nor all of them together, constitute its intrinsic unchanging element.
We proceed to state affirmatively that, ENSLAVING MEN IS REDUCING THEM TO ARTICLES OF PROPERTY—making free agents, chattels—converting persons, into things—sinking immortality, into merchandise. A slave is one held in this condition. In law, "he owns nothing, and can acquire nothing." His right to himself is abrogated. If he say my hands, my feet, my body, my mind, MYself, they are figures of speech. To use himself for his own good, is a CRIME. To keep what he earns, is stealing. To take his body into his own keeping, is insurrection. In a word, the profit of his master is made the END of his being, and he, a mere means to that end — a mere means to an end into which his interests do not enter, of which they constitute n portion.*
* Whatever system sinks man from an END to a mere means, just so far makes him a slave. Hence West India apprenticeship retains the cardinal principle of slavery. The apprentice, during three-fourths of his time, is still forced to labor, and robbed of his earnings; just so far forth he is a mere means, a slave. True, in other respects slavery is abolished in the British West Indies. Its bloodiest features are blotted out — but the meanest and most despicable of all — forcing the poor to work for the rich without pay three fourths of their time, with a legal officer to flog them if they demur at the outrage, is one of the provisions of the "Emancipation Act!" For the glories of that luminary, abolitionists thank God, while they mourn that it rose behind clouds, and shines through an eclipse.
MAN, sunk to a thing! the intrinsic element, the principle of slavery; MEN, bartered, leased, mortgaged, bequeathed, invoiced, shipped in cargoes, stored as goods, taken on executions, and knocked off at public outcry! Their rights, another's conveniences; their interests, wares on sale; their happiness, a household utensil; their personal inalienable ownership, a serviceable article, or a plaything, as best suits the humor of the hour; their deathless nature, conscience, social affections, sympathies, hopes—marketable commodities!
We repeat it, the reduction of persons to things; not robbing a man of privileges, but of himself; not loading with burdens, but making him a beast of burden; not restraining liberty, but subverting it; not curtailing rights, but abolishing them; not inflicting personal cruelty, but annihilating personality; not exacting involuntary labor, but sinking him into an implement of labor; not abridging human comforts, but abrogating human nature; not depriving an animal of immunities, but despoiling a rational being of attributes—uncreating a MAN, to make room for a thing!
That this is American slavery, is shown by the laws of slave states. Judge Stroud, in his "Sketch of the Laws relating to Slavery," says, "The cardinal principle of slavery, that the slave is not to be ranked among sentient beings, but among things—obtains as undoubted law in all of these [the slave] states." The law of South Carolina thus lays down the principle, "Slaves shall be deemed, held, taken, reputed, and adjudged in law to be chattels personal in the hands of their owners and possessors, and their executors, administrators, and assigns, to ALL INTENTS, CONSTRUCTIONS, AND PURPOSES WHATSOEVER."—Brevard's Digest, 229.
In Louisiana, "A slave is one who is in the power of a master to whom he belongs; the master may sell him, dispose of his person, his industry, and his labor; he can do nothing, possess nothing, nor acquire any thing, but what must belong to his master."—Civ. Code of Louisiana, Art. 35.
This is American slavery. The eternal distinction between a person and a thing, trampled under foot—the crowning distinction of all others—alike the source, the test, and the measure of their value—the rational, immortal principle, consecrated by God to universal homage, in a baptism of glory and honor by the gift of His Son, His Spirit, His Word, His presence, providence, and power; His shield, and staff, and sheltering wing; His opening heavens, and angels ministering, and chariots of fire, and songs of morning stars, and a great voice in heaven, proclaiming eternal sanctions, and confirming the word with signs following.
Having stated the principle of American slavery, we ask, DOES THE BIBLE SANCTION SUCH A PRINCIPLE?*
* The Bible record of actions is no comment on their moral character. It vouches for them as facts, not as virtues. It records without rebuke, Noah's drunkenness, Lot's incest, and the lies of Jacob and his mother—not only single acts, but usages, such as polygamy and concubinage, are entered on the record without censure. Is that silent entry God's endorsement? Because the Bible in its catalogue of human actions, does not stamp on every crime its name and number, and write against it, this is a crime—does that wash out its guilt, and bleach into a virtue?
"To the law and the testimony!" [Isaiah 8:20]. First, the moral law. Just after the Israelites were emancipated from their bondage in Egypt, while they stood before Sinai to receive the law, as the trumpet waxed louder, and the mount quaked and blazed, God spake the ten commandments from the midst of clouds and thunderings.
Two of those commandments deal death to slavery. "THOU SHALT NOT STEAL," or, "thou shalt not take from another what belongs to him." All man's powers are God's gift to him. That they are his own, is proved from the fact that God has given them to him alone,— that each of them is a part of himself, and all of them together constitute himself. All else that belongs to man, is acquired by the use of these powers. The interest belongs to him, because the principal does; the product is his, because he is the producer. Ownership of any thing, is ownership of its use. The right to use according to will, is itself ownership.
The eighth commandment presupposes and assumes the right of every man to his powers, and their product. Slavery robs of both. A man's right to himself, is the only absolutely original and intrinsic—-his right to whatever else that belongs to him is merely relative to this, is derived from it, and held only by virtue of it.
SELF-RIGHT is the foundation right—the post in the middle, to which all other rights are fastened. Slaveholders, when talking about their RIGHT to their slaves, always assume their own right to themselves. What slaveholder ever undertook to prove his right to himself? He knows it to be a self-evident proposition, that a man belongs to himself—that the right is intrinsic and absolute. In making out his own title, he makes out the title of every human being.
As the fact of being a man is itself the title, the whole human family have one common title deed. If one man's title is valid, all are valid. If one is worthless, all are. To deny the validity of the slave's title is to deny the validity of his own; and yet in the act of making a man a slave, the slaveholder asserts the validity of his own title, while he seizes him as his property who has the same title. Further, in making him a slave, he does not merely disfranchise the humanity of one individual, but of UNIVERSAL MAN. He destroys the foundations. He annihilates all rights. He attacks not only the human race, but universal being, and rushes upon JEHOVAH. For rights are rights; God's are no more—man's are no less.
The eighth commandment forbids the taking of any part of that which belongs to another. Slavery takes the whole. Does the same Bible which prohibits the taking of any thing from him, sanction the taking of every thing? Does it thunder wrath against him who robs his neighbor of a cent, yet bid God speed to him who robs his neighbor of himself?
Slaveholding is the highest possible violation of the eighth commandment. To take from a man his earnings, is theft. But to take the earner, is a compound, life-long theft—supreme robbery, that vaults up the climax at a leap—the dread, terrific, giant robbery, that towers among other robberies a solitary horror, monarch of the realm.
The eighth commandment forbids the taking away, and the tenth adds, "THOU SHALT NOT COVET ANY THING THAT IS THY NEIGHBOR'S;" thus guarding every man's right to himself and his property, by making not only the actual taking away a sin, but even that state of mind which would tempt to it. Who ever made human beings slaves, without coveting them? Why take from them their time, labor, liberty, right of self-preservation and improvement, their right to acquire property, to worship according to conscience, to search the Scriptures, to live with their families, and their right to their own bodies, if they do not desire them? They COVET them for purposes of gain, convenience, lust of dominion, of sensual gratification, of pride and ostentation. THEY BREAK THE TENTH COMMANDMENT, and pluck down upon their heads the plagues that are written in the book.— Ten commandments constitute the brief compend of human duty.— Two of these brand slavery as sin.
The giving of the law at Sinai, immediately preceded the promulgation of that body of laws called the "Mosaic system." Over the gateway of that system, fearful words were written by the finger of God—"HE THAT STEALETH A MAN AND SELLETH HIM, OR IF HE BE FOUND IN HIS HAND, HE SHALL SURELY BE PUT TO DEATH." Ex. xxi. 16.
The oppression of the Israelites in Egypt, and the wonders wrought for their deliverance, proclaim the reason for such a law at such a time — when the body politic became a theocracy, and reverently waited for the will of God. They had just been emancipated. The tragedies of their house of bondage were the realities of yesterday, and peopled their memories with thronging horrors. They had just witnessed God's testimony against oppression in the plagues of Egypt—the burning blains on man and beast—the dust quickened into loathsome life, and swarming upon every living thing—the streets, the palaces, the temples, and every house heaped up with the carcases of things abhorred—the kneading troughs and ovens, the secret chambers and the couches, reeking and dissolving with the putrid death—the pestilence walking in darkness at noonday, the devouring locusts, and hail mingled with fire, the first-born death-struck, and the waters blood, and last of all, that dread high hand and stretched-out arm, that whelmed the monarch and his hosts, and strewed their corpses on the sea.
All this their eyes had looked upon,—earth's proudest city, wasted and thunder-scarred, lying in desolation, and the doom of oppressors traced on her ruins in the hand writing of God, glaring in letters of fire mingled with blood—a blackened monument of wrath to the uttermost against the stealers of men. No wonder that God, in a code of laws prepared for such a people at such a time, should light up on its threshold a blazing beacon to flash terror on slaveholders. "He that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death." Ex. xxi. 16. Deut. xxiv. 7.*
* Jarchi, the most eminent of the Jewish Commentators, who wrote seven hundred years ago, in his comment on this stealing and making merchandise of men, gives the meaning thus:— "Using a man against his will, as a servant lawfully purchased; yea, though he should use his services ever so little, only to the value of a farthing, or use but his arm to lean on to support him, if he be forced so to act as a servant, the person compelling him but once to do so shall die as a thief, whether he has sold him or not."
God's cherubim and flaming sword guarding the entrance to the Mosaic system!
The word Ganabh here rendered stealeth, means, the taking what belongs to another, whether by violence or fraud; the same word is used in the eighth commandment, and prohibits both robbery and theft.
The crime specified, is that of depriving SOMEBODY of the ownership of a man. Is this somebody a master? and is the crime that of depriving a master of his servant? Then it would have been "he that stealeth" a servant, not "he that stealeth a man." If the crime had been the taking an individual from another, then the term used would have been expressive of that relation, and most especially if it was the relation of property and proprietor!
The crime is stated in a three-fold form—man stealing, selling, and holding. All are put on a level, and whelmed under one penalty—DEATH. This somebody deprived of the ownership of a man, is the man himself, robbed of personal ownership. Joseph said, "Indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews." Gen. xl. 15. How stolen? His brethren sold him as an article of merchandise.
Contrast this penalty for man-stealing with that for property-stealing, Ex. xxii. If a man had stolen an ox and killed or sold it, he was to restore five oxen; if he had neither sold nor killed it, two oxen. But in the case of stealing a man, the first act drew down the utmost power of punishment; however often repeated, or aggravated the crime, human penalty could do no more. The fact that the penalty for man-stealing was death, and the penalty for property-stealing, the mere restoration of double, shows that the two cases were adjudicated on totally different principles. The man stolen might be past labor, and his support a burden, yet death was the penalty, though not a cent's worth of property value was taken.
The penalty for stealing property was a mere property penalty. However large the theft, the payment of double wiped out the score. It might have a greater money value than a thousand men, yet death was not the penalty, nor maiming, nor branding, nor even stripes, but double of the same kind. Why was not the rule uniform? When a man was stolen why was not the thief required to restore double of the same kind—two men, or if he had sold him, five men? Do you say that the man-thief might not have them? So the ox-thief might not have two oxen, or if he had killed it, five. But if God permitted men to hold men as property, equally with oxen, the man-thief could get men with whom to pay the penalty, as well as the ox-thief, oxen.
Further, when property was stolen, the legal penalty was a compensation to the person injured. But when a man was stolen, no property compensation was offered. To tender money as an equivalent, would have been to repeat the outrage with intolerable aggravations. Compute the value of a MAN in money! Throw dust into the scale against immortality! The law recoiled from such supreme insult and impiety. To have permitted the man-thief to expiate his crime by restoring double, would have been making the repetition of crime its atonement. But the infliction of death for man-stealing exacted the utmost possibility of reparation. It wrung from the guilty wretch as he gave up the ghost, a testimony in blood, and death-groans, to the infinite dignity and worth of man,—a proclamation to the universe, voiced in mortal agony, "MAN IS INVIOLABLE."—a confession shrieked in frenzy at the grave's mouth—"I die accursed, and God is just!"
If God permitted man to hold man as property, why did he punish for stealing that kind of property infinitely more than for stealing any other kind of property? Why did he punish with death for stealing a very little of that sort of property, and make a mere fine, the penalty for stealing a thousand times as much, of any other sort of property—especially if God did by his own act annihilate the difference between man and property, by putting him on a level with it?
The atrociousness of a crime, depends much upon the nature, character, and condition of the victim. To steal is a crime, whoever the thief, or whatever the plunder. To steal bread from a full man, is theft; to steal it from a starving man, is both theft and murder. If I steal my neighbor's property, the crime consists not in altering the nature of the article, but in shifting its relation from him to me. But when I take my neighbor himself, and first make him property, and then my property, the latter act, which was the sole crime in the former case, dwindles to nothing. The sin in stealing a man, is not the transfer from its owner to another of that which is already property, but the turning of personality into property. True, the attributes of man remain, but the rights and immunities which grow out of them are annihilated.
It is the first law both of reason and revelation to regard things and beings as they are; and the sum of religion, to feel and act toward them according to their value. Knowingly to treat them otherwise is sin; and the degree of violence done to their nature, relations, and value, measures its guilt. When things are sundered which God has indissolubly joined, or confounded in one, which he has separated by infinite extremes; when sacred and eternal distinctions, which he has garnished with glory, are derided and set at nought, then, if ever, sin reddens to its "scarlet dye."
The sin specified in the passage, is that of doing violence to the nature of a man—to his intrinsic value as a rational being, and blotting out the exalted distinction stamped upon him by his Maker. In the verse preceding, and in that which follows, the same principle is laid down. Verse 15, "He that smiteth his father or his mother shall surely be put to death." Verse 17, "He that curseth his father or his mother, shall surely be put to death."
If a Jew smote his neighbor, the law merely smote him in return; but if the blow was given to a parent, it struck the smiter dead. The parental relation is the center of human society. God guards it with peculiar care. To violate that, is to violate all. Whoever trampled on that, showed that no relation had any sacredness in his eyes—that he was unfit to move among human relations who had violated one so sacred and tender. Therefore, the Mosaic law uplifted his bleeding corpse, and brandished the ghastly terror around the parental relation to guard it from impious inroads.
Why such a difference in penalties, for the same act? Answer. (1.) The relation violated was obvious—the distinction between parents and others manifest, dictated by natural affection — a law of the constitution. (2.) The act was violence to nature — a suicide on constitutional susceptibilities. (3.) The parental relation then, as now, was the focal point of the social system, and required powerful safeguards. "Honor thy father and thy mother," stands at the head of those commands which prescribe the duties of man to man; and, throughout the Bible, the parental state is God's favorite illustration of his own relations to the whole human family.
In this case death was to be inflicted not for smiting a man, but a parent — a distinction cherished by God, and around which, He threw up a bulwark of defense. In the next verse, [Ex. 21:16], "He that stealeth a man," &c., the SAME PRINCIPLE is wrought out in still stronger relief. The crime to be punished with death was not the taking of property from its owner, but the doing violence to an immortal nature, blotting out a sacred distinction, making MEN "chattels". The incessant pains taken in the Old Testament to separate human beings from brutes and things, shows God's regard for his own distinction.
"In the beginning" it was uttered in heaven, and proclaimed to the universe as it rose into being. Creation was arrayed at the instant of its birth, to do it homage. It paused in adoration while God ushered forth its crowning work. Why that dread pause and that creating arm held back in mid career and that high conference in the godhead? “Let us make man in OUR IMAGE after OUR LIKENESS, AND LET HIM HAVE DOMINION over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth.” [Genesis 1:26].
Then while every living thing, with land, and sea, and firmament, and marshalled worlds, waited to swell the shout of [Job 38:7] morning stars—then “GOD CREATED MAN IN HIS OWN IMAGE; IN THE IMAGE OF GOD CREATED HE HIM.” [Gen. 1:27.] This solves the problem, IN THE IMAGE OF GOD CREATED HE HIM. Well might the sons of God shout, "Amen, alleluia" — "For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet." Ps. viii. 5, 6.
This repetition of this distinction is frequent and solemn. In Gen. i. 26-28, it is repeated in various forms. In Gen. v. 1, we find it again, “IN THE LIKENESS OF GOD MADE HE MAN.” In Gen. ix. 6, again. After giving license to shed the blood of “every moving thing that liveth,” it is added, “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for IN THE IMAGE OF GOD MADE HE MAN.” As though it had been said, “All these creatures are your property, designed for your use—they have the likeness of earth, they perish with the using, and their spirits go downward; but this other being, MAN, has my own likeness: "IN THE IMAGE OF GOD made I man;" "an intelligent, moral, immortal agent, invited to all that I can give and he can be.” So in Lev. xxiv. 17, 18, 21, “He that killeth any MAN shall surely be put to death; and he that killeth a beast shall make it good, beast for beast; and he that killeth a man shall be put to death.”
So in Ps. viii. 5, 6, what an enumeration of particulars, each separating infinitely MEN from brutes and things! (1.) “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels.” Slavery drags him down among brutes. (2.) “And hast crowned him with glory and honor.” Slavery tears off his crown, and puts on a yoke. (3.) “Thou madest him to have dominion OVER the works of thy hands.” Slavery breaks the sceptre, and casts him down among those works—yea, beneath them. (4.) “Thou hast put all things under his feet.” Slavery puts HIM under the feet of an “owner.” Who, but an impious scorner, dares thus strive with his Maker, and mutilate HIS IMAGE, and blaspheme the Holy One, who saith, “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these, ye did it unto ME.” [Matthew 25:40].
In further prosecuting this inquiry, the Patriarchal and Mosaic systems will be considered together, as each reflects light upon the other, and as many regulations of the latter are mere legal forms of Divine institutions previously existing. As a system, the latter alone is of Divine authority. Whatever were the usages of the patriarchs, God has not made them our exemplars.*
* Those who insist that the patriarchs held slaves, and sit with such delight under their shadow, hymning the praises of “those good old patriarchs and slaveholders,” might at small cost greatly augment their numbers. A single stanza celebrating patriarchal concubinage, winding off with a chorus on honor of patriarchal drunkenness, would be a trumpet-call, summoning from bush and brake, highway and hedge, and sheltering fence, a brotherhood of kindred affinities, each claiming Abraham or Noah as his patron saint, and shouting, "My name is legion." What a myriad choir and thunderous song.
Before entering upon an analysis of the condition of servants under these two states of society, we will consider the import of certain terms which describe the mode of procuring them.
As the Israelites were commanded to “buy” their servants, and as Abraham had servants “bought with money,” it is argued that servants were articles of property. The sole ground for this belief is the terms themselves.
How much might be saved, if in discussion, the thing to be proved were always assumed. To beg the question in debate, would be vast economy of midnight oil! and a great forestaller of wrinkles and grey hairs! Instead of protracted investigation into Scripture usage, with painful collating of passages, to find the meaning of terms, let every man interpret the oldest book in the world by the usages of his own time and place, and the work is done. And then instead of one revelation, they might be multiplied as the drops of the morning, and every man have an infallible clue to the mind of the Spirit, if he only understood the dialect of his own neighborhood! What a Babel-jargon it would make of the Bible to take it for granted that the sense in which words are now used is the inspired sense, David says, “I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried.” [Psalm 119:147.] What, stop the earth in its revolution! Two hundred years ago, prevent was used in its strict Latin sense to come before, or anticipate. It is always used in this sense in the Old and New Testaments. David's expression, in the English of the nineteenth century, would be "Before the dawning of the morning I cried."
In almost every chapter of the Bible, words are used in a sense now nearly or quite obsolete, and sometimes in a sense totally opposite to their present meaning. A few examples follow: “I purposed to come to you, but was let (hindered) hitherto.”[Romans 1:13] “And the four beasts (living ones) fell down and worshipped God,”[Revelation 19:4] — “Whosoever shall offend (cause to sin) one of these little ones,”[Matthew 18:6] — “Go out into the highways and compel (urge) them to come in,” [Luke 14:23] — “Only let your conversation (habitual conduct) be as becometh the Gospel,” [Philippians 1:27] — “They that seek me early (earnestly) shall find me,.” [Proverbs 8:17] — “So when tribulation or persecution ariseth by-and-by (immediately) they are offended." [Matthew 13:21].
Nothing is more mutable than
language. Words, like bodies, are always throwing off some particles and
absorbing others. So long as they are mere representatives, elected by
the whims of universal suffrage, their meaning will be a perfect volatile, and to cork
it up for the next century is an
employment sufficiently silly (to speak within bounds) for a modern Bible
There never was a shallower conceit than that of establishing the sense attached to a word centuries ago, by showing what it means now. Pity that fashionable mantuamakers were not a little quicker at taking hints from some Doctors of Divinity. How easily they might save their pious customers all qualms of conscience about the weekly shiftings of fashion, by proving that the last importation of Parisian indecency now flaunting on promenade, was the very style of dress in which the pious Sarah kneaded cakes for the angels, and the modest Rebecca drew water for the camels of Abraham's servants. Since such fashions are rife in Broadway now, they must have been in Canaan and Padanaram four thousand years ago!
The inference that the word buy, used to describe the procuring of servants, means procuring them as chattels, seems based upon the fallacy, that whatever costs money is money; that whatever or whoever you pay money for, is an article of property, and the fact of your paying for it proves it property.
(1.) The children of Israel were required to purchase their first-born from under the obligations of the priesthood, Num. xviii. 15, 16; Ex. xiii. 13; xxxiv. 20. This custom still exists among the Jews, and the word buy is still used to describe the transaction. Does this prove that their first-born were, or are, held as property? They were bought as really as were servants.
(2.) The Israelites were required to pay money for their own souls. [Exodus 30:12-13]. This is called sometimes a ransom, sometimes an atonement. Were their souls therefore marketable commodities?
(3.) Bible saints bought their wives. Boaz bought Ruth. "So Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife." Ruth iv. 10. Hosea bought his wife. "So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley." Hosea iii. 6. Jacob bought his wives Rachel and Leah, and not having money, paid for them in labor — seven years a piece. Gen. xxix. 15-29. Moses probably bought his wife in the same way, and paid for her by his labor, as the servant of her father. Exod. ii. 21.
Shechem, when negotiating with Jacob and his sons for Dinah, says, “Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me.” Gen. xxxiv. 11, 12. David purchased Michal, and Othniel, Achsah, by performing perilous services for their fathers. 1 Sam. xviii. 25-27; Judg. i. 12, 13. That the purchase of wives, either with money or by service, was the general practice, is plain from such passages as Ex. xxii. 17, and 1 Sam. xviii. 25. Among the modern Jews this usage exists, though now a mere form, there being no real purchase. Yet among their marriage ceremonies, is one called “marrying by the penny.”
The coincidences in the methods of procuring wives and servants, in the terms employed in describing the transactions, and in the prices paid for each, are worthy of notice. The highest price of wives (virgins) and servants was the same. Comp. Deut. xxii. 28, 29, and Ex. xxii. l7, with Lev. xxvii. 2-8. The medium price of wives and servants was the same. Comp. Hos. iii. 2, with Ex. xxi. 32. Hosea seems to have paid one half in money and the other half in grain. Further, the Israelitish female bought servants were wives, their husbands and masters being the same persons. Ex. xxi. 8, Judg. xix. 3, 27.
If buying servants proves them property, buying wives proves them property. Why not contend that the wives of the ancient fathers of the faithful were their “chattels,” and used as ready change at a pinch; and thence deduce the rights of modern husbands? Alas! Patriarchs and prophets are followed afar off! When will pious husbands live up to their Bible privileges, and become partakers with Old Testament worthies in the blessedness of a husband's rightful immunities! Refusing so to do, is questioning the morality of those "good old patriarchs and slaveholders, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
This use of the word buy, is not peculiar to the Hebrew. In the Syriac, the common expression for "the espoused," is "the bought." Even so late as the 16th century, the common record of marriages in the old German Chronicles was, "A BOUGHT B."
The word translated buy, is, like other words, modified by the nature of the subject to which it is applied. Eve said, “I have gotten (bought) a man from the Lord.” She named him Cain, that is, bought. [Genesis 4:1]. “He that heareth reproof, getteth (buyeth) understanding.” Prov. xv. 32. So in Isa. xi. 11. “The Lord shall set his hand again to recover (to buy) the remnant of his people.” So Ps. lxxviii. 54. “He brought them to this mountain which his right hand had purchased,” (gotten.) Jer. xiii. 4. "Take the girdle that thou hast got" (bought.) Neh. v. 8. “We of our ability have redeemed (bought) our brethren that were sold to the heathen.” Here “bought” is not applied to persons reduced to servitude, but to those taken out of it. Prov. 8. 22. “The Lord possessed (bought) me in the beginning of his way.” Prov. xix. 8. “He that getteth (buyeth) wisdom loveth his own soul.” Finally, to buy, is a secondary meaning of the Hebrew word Kana.
Even at this day the word buy is used to describe the procuring of servants, where slavery is abolished. In the British West Indies, where slaves became apprentices in 1834, they are still “bought.” This is the current word in West India newspapers.
Ten years since servants were “bought” in New-York,
as really in Virginia, yet the different senses in which the
word is used in the two states, put no man in a quandary. Under the system of
legal indenture in Illinois, servants now are “bought.”*
* The following statute is now in force in the free State of IIlinois — “No negro, mulatto, or Indian, shall at any time purchase any servant other than of their own complexion; and if any of the persons aforesaid shall presume to purchase a white servant, such servant shall immediately become free, and shall be so held, deemed and taken.”
Until recently immigrants to this country were "bought" in great numbers. By voluntary contract they engaged to work a given time to pay for their passage. This class of persons called "redemptioners," consisted at one time of thousands.
Multitudes are "bought" out of slavery by themselves or others. Under the same roof with the writer is a “servant bought with money.” A few weeks since, she was a slave; when “bought” she was a slave no longer. Alas! for our leading politicians if “buying” men makes them “chattels.” The Whigs say that Benton and Rives are "bought" by the administration; and the other party, that Clay and Webster are "bought" by the Bank. The histories of the revolution tell us that Benedict Arnold was “bought” by British gold. When a northern clergyman marries a rich southern widow, country gossip thus hits off the indecency, “The cotton bags bought him.” Sir Robert Walpole said, “Every man has his price, and whoever will pay it, can buy him,” and John Randolph said, “The northern delegation is in the market; give me money enough, and I can buy them;” both meant just what they said. The temperance publications tell us that candidates for office buy men with whiskey; and the oracles of street tattle, that the court, district attorney, and jury, in the late trial of Robinson were bought, yet we have no floating visions of “chattels personal,” man auctions, or coffles.
The transaction between Joseph and the Egyptians gives a clue to the use of “buy” and “bought with money.” Gen. xlvii. 18-26. The Egyptians proposed to Joseph to become servants. When the bargain was closed, Joseph said, “Behold I have bought you this day,” and yet it is plain that neither party regarded the persons bought as articles of property, but merely as bound to labor on certain conditions, to pay for their support during the famine. The idea attached by both parties to "buy us," and "behold I have bought you," was merely that of service voluntarily offered, and secured by contract, in return for value received, and not at all that the Egyptians were bereft of their personal ownership, and made articles of property. And this buying of services (in this case it was but one-fifth part) is called in Scripture usage, buying the persons.
This case claims special notice, as it is the only one where the whole transaction of buying servants is detailed—the preliminaries, the process, the mutual acquiescence, and the permanent relation resulting therefrom. In all other instances, the mere fact is stated without particulars. In this case, the whole process is laid open.
(1.) The persons “bought,” sold themselves, and of their own accord. (2.) Obtaining permanently the services of persons, or even a portion of them, is called “buying” those persons. The objector, at the outset, takes it for granted, that servants were bought of third persons; and thence infers that they were articles of property. Both the alleged fact and the inference are sheer assumptions. No instance is recorded, under the Mosaic system, in which a master sold his servant. That servants who were “bought” sold themselves, is a fair inference from various passages of Scripture.
In Leviticus xxv. 47, the case of the Israelite, who became the servant of the stranger, the words are, “If he SELL HIMSELF unto the stranger.” The same word, and the same form of the word, which, in verse 47, is rendered sell himself, is in verse 39 of the same chapter, rendered be sold; in Deut. xxviii. 68, the same word is rendered “be sold.” “And there ye shall BE SOLD unto your enemies for bond-men and bond-women and NO MAN SHALL BUY YOU.”
How could they "be sold" without being bought? Our translation makes it nonsense. The word Makar rendered “be sold” is used here in the Hithpael conjugation, which is generally reflexive in its force, and, like the middle voice in Greek, represents what an individual does for himself, and should manifestly have been rendered, "ye shall offer yourselves for sale, and there shall be no purchaser."
For a clue to Scripture usage on this point, see 1 Kings xxi. 20, 25 — “Thou hast sold thyself to work evil.” “There was none like unto Ahab that sold himself to work wickedness.” — 2 Kings xvii. l7. “They used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil.” — Isa. 1. 1. “For your iniquities have ye sold yourselves.” Isa. lii. 3, “Ye have sold yourselves FOR NOUGHT, and ye shall be redeemed without money.” See also, Jer. xxxiv. 14 — Romans vii. 14, vi. 16 — John, viii. 34, and the case of Joseph and the Egyptians, already quoted. In the purchase of wives, though spoken of rarely, it is generally stated that they were bought of third persons. If servants were bought of third persons, it is strange that no instance of it is on record.
The general object of the laws defining the relations of master and servant, was the good of both parties—more especially the good of the servants. While the master's interests were guarded from injury, those of the servants were promoted. These laws made a merciful provision for the poorer classes, both of the Israelites and Strangers, not laying on burdens, but lightening them—they were a grant of privileges and favors.
I. No servant from the Strangers, could remain in the family of an Israelite, without becoming a proselyte. Compliance with this condition was the price of the privilege.— Gen. xvii. 9-14, 23, 27.
II. Excommunication from the family was a PUNISHMENT.— Gen. xxi. 14. Luke xvi. 2-4.
III. Every Hebrew servant could COMPEL his master to keep him after the six years contract had expired. This shows that the system was framed to advance the interests and gratify the wishes of the servant quite as much as those of the master. If the servant demanded it, the law obliged the master to retain him, however little he might need his services. Deut. xv. 12-17. Ex. xxi. 2-6.
IV. The rights and privileges guarantied by law to all servants.
1. They were admitted into covenant with God. Deut. xxix. 10-13.
2. They were invited guests at all the national and family festivals. Ex. xii. 43-44; Deut. xii. 12, 18, xvi. 10-16.
3. They were statedly instructed in morality and religion. Deut. xxxi. 10-13; Josh. viii. 33-35; 2 Chron. xvii. 8-9.
4. They were released from their regular labor nearly ONE HALF OF THE WHOLE TIME. During which they had their entire support, and the same instruction that was provided for the other members of the Hebrew community.
(a.) The Law secured to them the whole of every seventh year; Lev. xxv. 3-6; thus giving to those who were servants during the entire period between the jubilees, eight whole years, including the jubilee year, of unbroken rest.
(b) Every seventh day. This in forty-two years, the eight being subtracted from the fifty, would amount to just six years.
(c.) The three annual festivals. The Passover, which commenced on the 15th of the 1st month, and lasted seven days, Deut. xvi. 3, 8. The Pentecost, or Feast of Weeks, which began on the 6th day of the 3d month, and lasted seven days. Lev. xvi. 10, 11. The Feast of Tabernacles, which commenced on the 15th of the 7th month, and lasted eight days. Deut. xvi. 13, 15; Lev. xxiii. 34-39.
As all met in one place, much time would be spent on the journey. Cumbered caravans move slowly. After their arrival, a day or two would be requisite for divers preparations before the celebration, besides some time at the close of it, in preparations for return. If we assign three weeks to each festival—including the time spent on the journeys, and the delays before and after the celebration, together with the festival week, it will be a small allowance for the cessation of their regular labor. As there were three festivals in the year, the main body of the servants would be absent from their stated employments at least nine weeks annually, which would amount in forty-two years, subtracting the sabbaths, to six years and eighty-four days.
(d.) The new moons. The Jewish year had twelve; Josephus says that the Jews always kept two days for the new moon. See Calmet on the Jewish Calendar, and Horne's Introduction; also 1 Sam. xx. 18, 19, 27. This in forty-two years, would be two years 280 days.
(e.) The feast of trumpets. On the first day of the seventh month, and of the civil year. Lev. xxiii. 24, 25.
(f.) The atonement day. On the tenth of the seventh month. Lev. xxiii. 27.
These two feasts would consume not less than sixty-five days not reckoned above.
Thus it appears that those who continued servants during the period between the jubilees, were by law released from their labor, TWENTY-THREE YEARS AND SIXTY-FOUR DAYS, OUT OF FIFTY YEARS, and those who remained a less time, in nearly the same proportion. In this calculation, besides making a donation of all the fractions to the objector, we have left out those numerous local festivals to which frequent allusion is made, Judg. xxi. 19; 1 Sam. ix. etc., and the various family festivals, such as at the weaning of children; at marriages; at sheep shearings; at circumcisions; at the making of covenants, &c., to which reference is often made, as in 1 Sam. xx. 28, 29. Neither have we included the festivals instituted at a later period of the Jewish history. The feast of Purim, Esth. ix. 28, 29; and of the Dedication, which lasted eight days. John x. 22; 1 Mac. iv. 59.
Finally, the Mosaic system secured to servants, an amount of time which, if distributed, would be almost ONE-HALF OF THE DAYS IN EACH YEAR. Meanwhile, they were supported, and furnished with opportunities of instruction. If this time were distributed over every day, the servants would have to themselves nearly one half of each day.
THIS IS A REGULATION OF THAT MOSAIC SYSTEM WHICH IS CLAIMED BY SLAVEHOLDERS AS THE PROTOTYPE OF AMERICAN SLAVERY.
V. The servant was protected by law equally with the other members of the community.
Proof.—“Judge righteously between every man and his neighbor, and THE STRANGER THAT IS WITH HIM.” “Ye shall not RESPECT PERSONS in judgment, but ye shall hear the SMALL as well as the great.” Deut. i. 16, 17. Also Lev. xxiv. 22. “Ye shall have one manner of law as well for the STRANGER, as for one of your own country.” So Num. xv. 29. “Ye shall have ONE LAW for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel and for the STRANGER that sojourneth among them.” Deut. xxvii. 19. “Cursed be he that PERVERTETH THE JUDGMENT 0F THE STRANGER.”
VI. The Mosaic system enjoined the greatest affection and kindness toward servants, foreign as well as Jewish.
Lev. xix. 34. “The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.” Also Deut. x. 17, 19. “For the Lord your God * * REGARDETH NOT PERSONS. He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and LOVETH THE STRANGER, in giving him food and raiment, LOVE YE THEREFORE THE STRANGER.” So Ex. xxii. 21. “Thou shalt neither vex a STRANGER nor oppress him.” Ex. xxiii. 9. “Thou shalt not oppress a STRANGER, for ye know the heart of a stranger.”
Lev. xxv. 35, 36. “If thy brother be waxen poor thou shalt relieve him, yea, though he be a STRANGER or sojourner, that he may live with thee, take thou no usury of him or increase, but fear thy God.” Could this same stranger be taken by one that feared his God, and held as a slave, and robbed of time, earnings, and all his rights!
VII. Servants were placed upon a level with their masters in all civil
and religious rights. Num. xv. 15, 16, 29; ix. 14. Deut. i. 16, 17; Lev. xxiv.
that they became servants of their own accord.
1. Because to become a servant in the family of an Israelite, was to abjure idolatry, to enter into covenant with God,,*
* Maimonides, who wrote in Egypt about seven hundred years ago, a contemporary with Jarchi, and who stands with him at the head of Jewish writers, gives the following testimony on this point:
“Whether a servant be born in the power of an Israelite, or whether he be purchased from the heathen, the master is to bring them both into the covenant.
“But he that is in the house is entered on the eighth day, and he that is bought with money, on the day on which his master receives him, unless the slave be unwilling. For if the master receive a grown slave, and he be unwilling, his master is to bear with him, to seek to win him over by instruction, and by love and kindness, for one year. After which, should he refuse so long, it is forbidden to keep him, longer than a year. And the master must send him back to the strangers from whence he came. For the God of Jacob will not accept any other than the worship of a willing heart."—Maimon., Hilcoth Miloth, Chap. 1st, Sec. 8th.
The ancient Jewish Doctors assert that the servant from the Strangers who at the close of his probationary year, refused to adopt the Jewish religion and was on that account sent back to his own people, received a full compensation for his services, besides the payment of his expenses. But that postponement of the circumcision of the foreign servant for a year (or even at all after he had entered the family of an Israelite) of which the Mishnic doctors speak, seems to have been a mere usage. We find nothing of it in the regulations of the Mosaic system. Circumcision was manifestly a rite strictly initiatory. Whether it was a rite merely national or spiritual, or both, comes not within the scope of this inquiry.
be circumcised in token of it, bound to keep the Sabbath, the Passover, the Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles, and to receive instruction in the moral and ceremonial law. Were the servants forced through all these processes? Was the renunciation of idolatry compulsory? Were they dragged into covenant with God? Were they seized and circumcised by main strength? Were they compelled mechanically to chew, and swallow the flesh of the Paschal lamb, while they abhorred the institution, spurned the laws that enjoined it, detested its author and its executors, and instead of rejoicing in the deliverance which it commemorated, bewailed it as a calamity, and cursed the day of its consummation? Were they driven from all parts of the land three times in the year to the annual festivals? Were they drugged with instruction which they nauseated? Goaded through a round of ceremonies, to them senseless and disgusting mummeries; and drilled into the tactics of a creed rank with loathed abominations?
We repeat it, to become a servant, was to become a proselyte. And did God authorize his people to make proselytes, at the point of the sword? by the terror of pains and penalties? by converting men into merchandise? Were proselyte and chattel synonymes, in the Divine vocabulary? Must a man be sunk to a thing before taken into covenant with God? Was this the stipulated condition of adoption, and the sole passport to the communion of the saints?
II. We argue the voluntariness of servants from Deut. xxiii. 15, 16, “Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose, in one of thy gates where it liketh him best; thou shalt not oppress him.”
As though God had said, “To deliver him up would be to recognize the right of the master to hold him; his fleeing shows his choice — proclaims his wrongs and his title to protection; you shall not force him back and thus recognize the right of the master to hold him in such a condition as induces him to flee to others for protection.”
It may be said that this command referred only to the servants of heathen masters in the surrounding nations. We answer, the terms of the command are unlimited. But the objection, if valid, would merely shift the pressure of the difficulty to another point. Did God require them to protect the free choice of a single servant from the heathen, and yet authorize the same persons, to crush the free choice of thousands of servants from the heathen? Suppose a case. A foreign servant flees to the Israelites; God says, “He shall dwell with thee, in that place which he shall choose, in one of thy gates where it liketh him best..” Now, suppose this same servant, instead of coming into Israel of his own accord, had been dragged in by some kidnapper who bought him of his master, and forced him into a condition against his will; would He who forbade such treatment of the stranger, who voluntarily came into the land, sanction the same treatment of the same person, provided in addition to this last outrage, the previous one had been committed of forcing him into the nation against his will?
To commit violence on the free choice of a foreign servant is forsooth a horrible enormity, PROVIDED you begin the violence after he has come among you! But if you commit the first act on the other side of the line; if you begin the outrage by buying him from a third person against his will, and then tear him from home, drag him across the line into the land of Israel, and hold him as a slave—ah! that alters the case, and you may perpetrate the violence now with impunity!
Would greater favor have been shown to this new comer than to the old residents—those who had been servants in Jewish families perhaps for a generation? Were the Israelites commanded to exercise toward him, uncircumcised and out of the covenant, a justice and kindness denied to the multitudes who were circumcised, and within the covenant?
But, the objector finds small gain to his argument on the supposition that the covenant respected merely the fugitives from the surrounding nations, while it left the servants of the Israelites in a condition against their wills. In that case, the surrounding nations would adopt retaliatory measures, and become so many asylums for Jewish fugitives. As these nations were not only on every side of them, but in their midst, such a proclamation would have been an effectual lure to men whose condition was a constant counteraction of will. Besides the same command which protected the servant from the power of his foreign master, protected him equally from that of an Israelite. It was not, “Thou shalt not deliver him unto his master,” but “he shall dwell with thee, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates where it liketh him best.” Every Israelite was forbidden to put him in any condition against his will. What was this but a proclamation, that all who chose to live in the land and obey the laws, were left to their own free will, to dispose of their services at such a rate, to such persons, and in such places as they pleased?
Besides, grant that this command prohibited the sending back of foreign servants merely, there was no law requiring the return of servants who had escaped from the Israelites. Property lost, and cattle escaped, they were required to return, but not escaped servants. These verses contain 1st, a command, "Thou shalt not deliver," &c., 2d, a declaration of the fugitive's right of free choice, and of God's will that he should exercise it at his own discretion; and 3d, a command guarding this right, namely, " Thou shalt not oppress him," as though God had said, "If you restrain him from exercising his own choice, as to the place and condition of his residence, it is oppression."
III. We argue the voluntariness of servants from their peculiar opportunities and facilities for escape. Three times every year, all the males over twelve years, were required to attend the national feasts. They were thus absent from their homes not less than three weeks at each time, making nine weeks annually. As these caravans moved over the country, were there military scouts lining the way, to intercept deserters?—a corporal's guard at each pass of the mountains, sentinels pacing the hill-tops, and light horse scouring the defiles? The Israelites must have had some safe contrivance for taking their "slaves" three times in a year to Jerusalem and back.
When a body of slaves is moved any distance in our republic, they are hand-cuffed and chained together, to keep them from running away, or beating their drivers' brains out. Was this the Mosaic plan, or an improvement introduced by Samuel, or was it left for the wisdom of Solomon? The usage, doubtless, claims a paternity not less venerable and biblical!
Perhaps they were lashed upon camels, and transported in bundles, or caged up, and trundled on wheels to and fro, and while at the Holy City, "lodged in jail for safe keeping," the Sanhedrim appointing special religious services for their benefit, and their "drivers" officiating at "ORAL instruction."
Mean while, what became of the sturdy handmaids left at home? What hindered them from marching off in a body? Perhaps the Israelitish matrons stood sentry in rotation round the kitchens, while the young ladies scoured the country, as mounted rangers, picking up stragglers by day, and patrolled the streets, keeping a sharp look-out at night.
IV. Their continuance in Jewish families depended upon the performance of various rites necessarily VOLUNTARY.
Suppose the servants from the heathen had upon entering Jewish families, refused circumcision; if slaves, how simple the process of emancipation! Their refusal did the job. Or, suppose they had refused to attend the annual feasts, or had eaten unleavened bread during the Passover, or compounded the ingredients of the anointing oil, they would have been “cut off from the people;” excommunicated.
V. We infer the voluntariness of the servants of the Patriarchs from the impossibility of their having been held against their wills. Abraham's servants are an illustration. At one time he had three hundred and eighteen young men “born in his house,” and many more not born in his house. His servants of all ages, were probably MANY THOUSANDS. How Abraham and Sarah contrived to hold fast so many thousand servants against their wills, we are left quite in the dark. The most natural supposition is that the Patriarch and his wife took turns in surrounding them! The neighboring tribes, instead of constituting a picket guard to hem in his servants, would have been far more likely to sweep them and him into captivity, as they did Lot and his household. Besides, there was neither “Constitution” nor “compact,” to send back Abraham's fugitives, nor a truckling police to pounce upon them, nor gentlemen-kidnappers, suing for his patronage, volunteering to howl on their track, boasting their blood-hound scent, and pledging their “honor” to hunt down and “deliver up,” provided they had a description of the “flesh-marks,” and were suitably stimulated by pieces of silver.
Abraham seems also to have been sadly deficient in all the auxiliaries of family government, such as stocks, hand-cuffs, foot-chains, yokes, gags, and thumb-screws. His destitution of these patriarchal indispensables is the more afflicting, since he faithfully trained “his household to do justice and judgment,” though so deplorably destitute of the needful aids.
VI. We infer that servants were voluntary, as there is no instance of an Israelitish master SELLING a servant. Abraham had thousands of servants, but seems never to have sold one. Isaac “grew until he became very great,” and had "great store of servants." [Genesis 26:14]. Jacob's youth was spent in the family of Laban, where he lived a servant twenty-one years. Afterward he had a large number of servants. Joseph sent for Jacob to come into Egypt, “thou and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks and thy herds, and ALL THAT THOU HAST.” Jacob took his flocks and herds but no servants. Gen. xlv. 10; xlvii. 16. They doubtless, served under their own contracts, and when Jacob went into Egypt, they chose to stay in their own country. The government might sell thieves, if they had no property, until their services had made good the injury, and paid the legal fine. Ex. xxii. 3. But masters seem to have had no power to sell their servants. To give the master a right to sell his servant, would annihilate the servant's right of choice in his own disposal; but says the objector, “to give the master a right to buy a servant, equally annihilates the servant's right of choice.” Answer. It is one thing to have a right to buy a man, and a different thing to have a right to buy him of another man.*
* There is no evidence that masters had the power to dispose of even the services of their servants, as men hire out their laborers whom they employ by the year; but whether they had or not, affects not the argument.
Though servants were not bought of their masters, yet young females were bought of their fathers. But their purchase as servants
was their betrothal as WIVES. Ex. xxi. 7, 8. “If a man sell his daughter
to be a maid-servant, she shall not go out as the men-servants do. If she
please not her master WHO HATH BETROTHED HER TO HIMSELF, he shall let her
* The comment of Maimonides on this passage is as follows: “A Hebrew hand-maid might not be sold but to one who laid himself under obligations, to espouse her to himself or to his son, when she was fit to be betrothed.”—Maimonides—Hilcoth—Obedim, Ch. IV. Sec. XI. Jarchi, on the same passage, says, “He is bound to espouse her and take her to be his wife, for the money of her purchase is the money of her espousal.”
VII. We infer that the Hebrew servant was voluntary in COMMENCING his service, because he was pre-eminently so IN CONTINUING it. If, at the year of release, it was the servant's choice to remain with his master, the law required his ear to be bored by the judges of the land, thus making it impossible for him to be held against his will. [Exodus 21:6]. Yea more, his master was compelled to keep him, however much he might wish to get rid of him.
VIII. The method prescribed for procuring servants, was an appeal to their choice. The Israelites were commanded to offer them a suitable inducement, and then leave them to decide. They might neither seize them by force, nor frighten them by threats, nor wheedle them by false pretences, nor borrow them, nor beg them; but they were commanded to BUY them;*
*The case of thieves, whose services were sold until they had earned enough to make restitution to the person wronged, and to pay the legal penalty, stands by itself, and has nothing to do with the condition of servants.
that is, they were to recognize the right of the individuals to dispose of their own services, and their right to refuse all offers, and thus oblige those who made them, to do their own work. Suppose all, with one accord, had refused to become servants, what provision did the Mosaic law make for such an emergency? NONE.
IX. Various incidental expressions corroborate the idea that servants became such by their own contract. Job xli. 4, is an illustration, “Will he (Leviathan) make a COVENANT with thee? wilt thou take him for a SERVANT forever?”
X. The transaction which made the Egyptians the SERVANTS OF PHARAOH was voluntary throughout. See Gen. xlvii. 18-26. Of their own accord they came to Joseph and said, “We have not aught left but our bodies and our lands; buy us;” then in the 25th verse, “We will be servants to Pharaoh.”
XI. We infer the voluntariness of servants, from the fact that RICH Strangers did not become servants. Indeed, so far were they from becoming servants themselves, that they bought and held Jewish servants. Lev. xxv. 47.
XII. The sacrifices and offerings which ALL were required to present, were to be made VOLUNTARILY. Lev. i. 2, 3.
XIII. Mention is often made of persons becoming servants where they were manifestly and pre-eminently VOLUNTARY. As the Prophet Elisha. 1 Kings xix. 21; 2 Kings iii. 11. Elijah was his master. [2 Kings ii. 5.] The word, translated master, is the same that is so rendered in almost every instance where masters are spoken of under the Mosaic and patriarchal systems. Moses was the servant of Jethro. Ex. iii. 1. Joshua was the servant of Moses. Num. xi. 28. Jacob was the servant of Laban. Gen. xxix. 18-27.
As the servants became and continued such of their own accord, it would be no small marvel if they chose to work without pay. Their becoming servants, pre-supposes compensation as a motive. That they were paid for their labor, we argue,
I. Because God rebuked in thunder, the sin of using the labor of others without wages. “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; THAT USETH HIS NEIGHBOR'S SERVICE WITHOUT WAGES, and giveth him not for his work.” Jer. xxii. 13. God here testifies that to use the service of others without wages is "unrighteousness," and pronounces his "woe" against the doer of the "wrong."
The Hebrew word Rea, translated neighbor, does not mean one man, or class of men, in distinction from others, but any one with whom we have to do—all descriptions of persons, even those who prosecute us in lawsuits, and enemies in the act of fighting us—"As when a man riseth against his NEIGHBOR and slayeth him." Deut. xxii. 26. "Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy NEIGHBOR hath put thee to shame." Prov. xxv. 8. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy NEIGHBOR." Ex. xx. 16. "If any man come presumptuously upon his NEIGHBOR to slay him with guile." Ex. xxi. 14, &c.
II. God testifies that in our duty to our fellow men, ALL THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS hang upon this command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Our Savior, in giving this command, quoted verbatim one of the laws of the Mosaic system. Lev. xix. 18. In the 34th verse of the same chapter, Moses applies this law to the treatment of Strangers, “The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and THOU SHALT LOVE HIM AS THYSELF.” If it be loving others as ourselves, to make them work for us without pay; to rob them of food and clothing also, would be a stronger illustration still of the law of love! Super-disinterested benevolence! And if it be doing unto others as we would have them do to us, to make them work for our own good alone, Paul should be called to order for his hard sayings against human nature, especially for that libellous matter in Eph. v. 29, “No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth it and cherisheth it.”
III. As persons became servants FROM POVERTY, we argue that they were compensated, since they frequently owned property, and sometimes a large amount. Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, gave David a princely present, “An hundred loaves of bread, and an hundred bunches of raisins, and an hundred of summer fruits, and a bottle of wine.” 2 Sam. xvi. 1. The extent of his possessions can be inferred from the fact, that though the father of fifteen sons, he had twenty servants.
In Lev. xxv. 57-59, where a servant, reduced to poverty, sold himself, it is declared that he may be redeemed, either by his kindred, or by HIMSELF. Having been forced to sell himself from poverty, he must have acquired considerable property after he became a servant.
If it had not been common for servants to acquire property over which they had the control, the servant of Elisha would hardly have ventured to take a large sum of money, (nearly $3000*) from Naaman, 2 Kings v. 22, 23.
*Though we have not sufficient data to decide upon the relative value of that sum, then and now, yet we have enough to warrant us in saying that two talents of silver, had far more value then than three thousand dollars have now.
As it was procured by deceit, he wished to conceal the means used in
getting it; but if servants, could “own nothing, nor acquire any thing," to
embark in such an enterprise would have been consummate stupidity. The
fact of having in his possession two talents of silver, would of itself
convict him of theft.*
* Whoever heard of slaves in our southern states stealing a large amount of money? They "know how to take care of themselves" quite too well for that. When they steal, they are careful to do it on such a small scale, or in the taking of such things as will make detection difficult. No doubt they steal now and then a little, and a gaping marvel would it be if they did not. Why should they not follow in the footsteps of their masters and mistresses? Dull scholars indeed! if, after so many lessons from proficients in the art, who drive the business by wholesale, they should not occasionally copy their betters, fall into the fashion, and try their hand in a small way, at a practice which is the only permanent and universal business carried on around them! Ignoble truly! never to feel the stirrings of high impulse, prompting to imitate the eminent pattern set before them in the daily vocation of “Honorables” and “Excellencies,” and to emulate the illustrious examples of Doctors of Divinity, and Right and Very Reverends! Hear President Jefferson's testimony. In his Notes on Virginia, pp. 207-8, speaking of slaves, he says, “That disposition to theft with which they have been branded, must be ascribed to their situation, and not to any special depravity of the moral sense. It is a problem which I give the master to solve, whether the religious precepts against the violation of property were not framed for HIM as well as for his slave — and whether the slave may not as justifiably take a little from one who has taken ALL from him, as he may slay one who would slay him?”
But since it was common for servants to own property he might have it, and invest or use it, without attracting special attention, and that consideration alone would have been a strong motive to the act. His master, while rebuking him for using such means to get the money, not only does not take it from him, but seems to expect that he would invest it in real estate, and cattle, and would procure servants with it. 2 Kings v. 26.
We find the servant of Saul having money, and relieving his master in an emergency. 1 Sam. ix. 8. Arza, the servant of Elah, was the owner of a house. That it was somewhat magnificent, would be a natural inference from its being a resort of the king. 1 Kings xvi. 9. The case of the Gibeonites, who after becoming servants, still occupied their cities, and remained in many respects, a distinct people for centuries; and that of the 150,000 Canaanites, the servants of Solomon, who worked out their “tribute of bond-service” in levies, periodically relieving each other, are additional illustrations of independence in the acquisition and ownership of property.
IV. Heirship.—Servants frequently inherited their master's property; especially if he had no sons, or if they had dishonored the family. Eliezer, the servant of Abrabam [Gen. xv. 23]; Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth [2 Sam 19:29]; Jarha, the servant of Sheshan [1 Chron 2:34-35], and the husbandmen who said of their master's son, "this is the HEIR, let us kill him, and the INHERITANCE WILL BE OURS," are illustrations [Matt. 21:38; Mark 12:7; Luke 20:14]; also Prov. xvii. 2—“A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and SHALL HAVE PART OF THE INHERITANCE AMONG THE BRETHREN.” This passage gives servants precedence as heirs, even over the wives and daughters of their masters. Did masters hold by force, and plunder of earnings, a class of persons, from which, in frequent contingencies, they selected both heirs for their property, and husbands for their daughters?
V. ALL were required to present offerings and sacrifices. Deut. xvi. 15, 17; 2 Chron. xv. 9-11; Num. ix. 13. Servants must have had permanently, the means of acquiring property to meet these expenditures.
VI. Those Hebrew servants who went out at the seventh year, were provided by law with a large stock of provisions and cattle. Deut. xv. 11-14. “Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy wine press, of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee, thou shalt give him.”*
* The comment of Maimonides on this passage is as follows—“'Thou shalt furnish him liberally,' &c. That is to say, 'Loading, ye shall load him,' likewise every one of his family, with as much as he can take with him—abundant benefits. And if it be avariciously asked, 'How much must I give him?' I say unto you, not less than thirty shekels, which is the valuation of a servant, as declared in Ex. xxi. 32.”—Maimonides, Hilcoth Obedim, Chap. ii. Sec. 3.
If it be said that the servants from the Strangers did not receive a like bountiful supply, we answer, neither did the most honorable class of Israelitish servants, the free-holders; and for the same reason, they did not go out in the seventh year, but continued until the jubilee. If the fact that the Gentile servants did not receive such a gratuity proves that they were robbed of their earnings, it proves that the most valued class of Hebrew servants were robbed of theirs also; a conclusion too stubborn for even pro-slavery masticators, however unscrupulous.
VII. The servants were BOUGHT. In other words, they received compensation in advance. Having shown, under a previous head, that servants sold themselves, and of course received the compensation for themselves, except in cases where parents hired out the time of their children till they became of age,* a mere reference to the fact is all that is required for the purposes of this argument.
* Among the Israelites, girls became of age at twelve, and boys at thirteen years.
VIII. We find masters at one time having a large number of servants, and afterwards none, without any intimation that they were sold. The wages of servants would enable them to set up in business for themselves. Jacob, after being Laban's servant for twenty-one years, became thus an independent herdsman, and was the master of many servants. Gen. xxx. 43; xxxii. 15. But all these servants had left him before he went down into Egypt, having doubtless acquired enough to commence business for themselves. Gen. xlv. 10, 11; xlvi. 1-7, 32.
IX. God's testimony to the character of Abraham. Gen. xviii. 19. “For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep, THE WAY OF THE LORD TO DO JUSTICE AND JUDGMENT.” God here testifies that Abraham taught his servants "the way of the Lord." What was “the way of the Lord” respecting the payment of wages where service was rendered? “Woe unto him that useth his neighbor's service WITHOUT WAGES!” Jer. xxii. 13. “Masters, give unto your servants that which is JUST AND EQUAL.” Col. iv. 1. “Render unto all their DUES.” Rom. xiii. 7. “The laborer is WORTHY OF HIS HIRE.” Luke x. 7.
How did Abraham teach his servants to “do justice” to others? By doing injustice to them? Did he exhort them to “render to all their dues” by keeping back their own? Did he teach them that “the laborer was worthy of his hire” by robbing them of theirs? Did he beget in them a reverence for honesty by pilfering all their time and labor? Did he teach them “not to defraud” others “in any matter” by denying them “what was just and equal?”
If each of Abraham's pupils under such a catechism did not become a very Aristides in justice, then illustrious examples, patriarchal dignity, and practical lessons, can make but slow headway against human perverseness!
X. Specific precepts of the Mosaic law enforcing general principles. Out of many, we select the following: (1.) “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn,” or literally, while he thresheth. Deut. xxv. 4. Here is a general principle applied to a familiar case. The ox representing all domestic animals. Isa. xxx. 24. A particular kind of service, all kinds; and a law requiring an abundant provision for the wants of an animal ministering to a man in a certain way,—a general principle of treatment covering all times, modes, and instrumentalities of service.
The object of the law was; not merely to enjoin tenderness towards brutes, but to inculcate the duty of rewarding those who serve us; and if such care be enjoined, by God, both for the ample sustenance and present enjoyment of a brute, what would be a meet return for the services of man?— MAN with his varied wants, exalted nature and immortal destiny! Paul says expressly, that this principle lies at the bottom of the statute. 1 Cor. ix. 9, 10, “For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for OUR sakes? that he that ploweth should plow in HOPE, and that he that thresheth in hope should be PARTAKER OF HIS HOPE.”
(2.) “If thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee, then thou shalt relieve him, YEA, THOUGH HE BE A STRANGER or a SOJOURNER that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase, but fear thy God. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.” Lev. xxv. 35-37. Now, we ask, by what process of pro-slavery legerdemain, this regulation can be made to harmonize with the doctrine of WORK WITHOUT PAY? Did God declare the poor stranger entitled to RELIEF, and in the same breath, authorize them to “use his service without wages;” force him to work and ROB HIM OF HIS EARNINGS?
The discussion of this topic has already been somewhat anticipated, but a variety of additional considerations remain to be noticed.
I. Servants were not subjected to the uses nor liable to the contingencies of property. (1.) They were never taken in payment for their masters' debts, though children were sometimes taken (without legal authority) for the debts of a father. 2 Kings iv. 1; Job xxiv. 9; Isa l. 1; Matt. xviii. 25. Creditors took from debtors property of all kinds, to satisfy their demands. Job xxiv. 3, cattle are taken; Prov. xxii. 27, household furniture; Lev. xxv. 25-28, the productions of the soil; Lev. xxv. 27-30, houses; Ex. xxii. 26-29, Deut. xxiv. 10-13, Matt. v. 40, clothing; but servants were taken in no instance. (2.) Servants were never given as pledges. Property of all sorts was given in pledge. We find household furniture, clothing, cattle, money, signets, and personal ornaments, with divers other articles of property, used as pledges for value received; but no servants.
(3.) All lost PROPERTY was to be restored. Oxen, asses, sheep, raiment, and “whatsoever lost things,” are specified—servants not. Deut. xxii. 13. Besides, the Israelites were forbidden to return the runaway servant. Deut. xxiii. 15. (4.) The Israelites never gave away their servants as presents. They made costly presents, of great variety. Lands, houses, all kinds of animals, merchandise, family utensils, precious metals, grain, armor, &c. are among their recorded gifts. Giving presents to superiors and persons of rank, was a standing usage. 1 Sam. x. 27; 1 Sam. xvi. 20; 2 Chron. xvii. 5. Abraham to Abimelech, Gen. xxi. 27; Jacob to the viceroy of Egypt, Gen. xliii. 11; Joseph to his brethren and father, Gen. xlv. 22, 23; Benhadad to Elisha, 2 Kings viii. 8, 9; Ahaz to Tiglath Pilezer, 2 Kings vi. 8; Solomon to the Queen of Sheba, 1 Kings x. 13; Jeroboam to Ahijah, 1 Kings xiv. 3; Asa to Benhadad, 1 Kings xv. 18, 19. But no servants were given as presents — though it was a prevailing fashion in the surrounding nations. Gen. xii. 16; Gen. xx. 14.
It may be objected that Laban GAVE handmaids to his daughters, Jacob's wives. Without enlarging on the nature of the polygamy then prevalent suffice it to say that the handmaids of wives were regarded as wives, though of inferior dignity and authority. That Jacob so regarded his handmaids, is proved by his curse upon Reuben, Gen. xlix. 4, and Chron. v. 1; also by the equality of their children with those of Rachel and Leah. But had it been otherwise—had Laban given them as articles of property, then, indeed, the example of this "good old patriarch and slaveholder," Saint Laban, would have been a forecloser to all argument. Ah! we remember his jealousy for religion — his holy indignation when he found that his "GODS" were stolen! How he mustered his clan, and plunged over the desert in hot pursuit, seven days, by forced marches; how he ransacked a whole caravan, sifting the contents of every tent, little heeding such small matters as domestic privacy, or female seclusion, for lo! the zeal of his "IMAGES" had eaten him up! No wonder that slavery, in its Bible-navigation, drifting dismantled before the free gusts, should send under the lee of such a pious worthy to haul up and refit; invoking his protection, and the benediction of his "GODS!"
Again, it may be objected that, servants were enumerated in
inventories of property. If that proves servants property, it proves wives
property. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not
covet thy neighbor's WIFE, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor
his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's." Ex. xx. 17.
In inventories of mere property if servants are included, it is in such a
way, as to show that they are not regarded as property. See. Eccl. ii. 7,
8. But when the design is to show, not merely the wealth, but the
greatness of any personage, servants are spoken of, as well as property.
In a word, if riches alone are spoken of, no mention is made of servants;
if greatness, servants and property. Gen. xiii. 2. "And Abraham was
very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold." So in the fifth verse, "And
Lot also had flocks, and herds, and tents." In the seventh verse servants
are mentioned, " And there was a strife between the HERDMEN of Abraham's
cattle and the HERDMEN of Lot's cattle."
See also Josh. xxii. 8; Gen. xxxiv. 23; Job. xlii. 12; 2 Chron. xxi. 3; xxxii 27-29; Job. i. 3-5; Deut. viii. 12-17; Gen. xxiv. 35, xxvi. 13, xxx. 43. Jacob's wives say to him, “All the riches which thou hast taken from our father that is ours and our children's.” Then follows an inventory of property. “All his cattle,” “all his goods,” “the cattle of his getting.” He had a large number of servants at the time but they are not included with his property. Comp. Gen. xxx. 43, with Gen. xxxi. 16-18.
When he sent messengers to Esau, wishing to impress him with an idea of his state and sway, he bade them tell him not only of his RICHES, but of his GREATNESS; that Jacob had “oxen, and asses, and flocks, and men-servants, and maid-servants.” Gen. xxxii. 4, 5. Yet in the present which he sent, there were no servants; though he seems to have sought as much variety as possible. Gen. xxxii. 14, 15; see also Gen. xxxvi. 6, 7; Gen. xxxiv. 23.
As flocks and herds were the
staples of wealth, a large number of servants presupposed large
possessions of cattle, which would require many herdsmen. When servants are spoken of in connection with
mere property, the terms used to express the latter do not include the former.
The Hebrew word Mikne, is an illustration. It is derived from Kana, to
procure, to buy, and its meaning is, a possession, wealth, riches. It
occurs more than forty times in the Old Testament, and is applied always
to mere property, generally to domestic animals, but never to servants. In some instances, servants are mentioned in distinction from the
Mikne. “And Abraham took Sarah his wife, and Lot his brother's
son, and all their SUBSTANCE that they had gathered; and the souls that they
had gotten in Haran, and they went forth to go into the
land of Canaan.”—Gen. xii. 5. Many will have it, that these souls
were a part of Abraham's substance (notwithstanding the pains here taken
to separate them from it)—that they were slaves taken with him in his
migration as a part of his family effects. Who
but slaveholders, either actually or in heart, would torture into the
principle and practice of slavery, such a harmless phrase as
“the souls that they had gotten?” Until the slave trade breathed
its haze upon the vision of the church, and smote her with palsy and
decay, commentators saw no slavery in, “The
souls that they had gotten.”
In the Targum of Onkelos* it is rendered, “The souls whom they had brought to obey the law in Haran.” [Genesis 12:5]
* The Targums are Chaldee paraphrases of parts of the Old Testament. The Targum of Onkelos is, for the most part, a very accurate and faithful translation of the original, and was probably made at about the commencement of the Christian era. The Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, bears about the same date. The Targum of Jerusalem was probably about five hundred years later. The Israelites, during their captivity in Babylon, lost, as a body, their own language. These translations into the Chaldee, the language which they acquired in Babylon, were thus called for by the necessity of the case.
In the Targum of Jonathan, “The souls whom they had made proselytes in Haran.” In the Targum of Jerusalem, “The souls proselyted in Haran.” Jarchi, the prince of Jewish commentators, “The souls whom they had brought under the Divine wings.”
Jerome, one of the most learned of the Christian fathers, “The persons whom they had proselyted.” The Persian version, the Vulgate, the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Samaritan all render it, “All the wealth which they had gathered, and the souls which they had made in Haran.” [Genesis 12:5]. Menochius, a commentator who wrote before our present translation of the Bible, renders it, “Quas de idolatraria converterant.” “Those whom they had converted from idolatry.”—Paulus Fagius.*
* This eminent Hebrew scholar was invited to England to superintend the translation of the Bible into English, under the patronage of Henry the Eighth. He had hardly commenced the work when he died. This was nearly a century before the date of our present translation.
“Quas instituerant in religione.” “Those whom they had established in religion.” Luke Francke, a German commentator who lived two centuries ago. “Quas legi subjicerant.”—“Those whom they had brought to obey the law.”
II. The condition and treatment of servants make the doctrine that they were mere COMMODITIES, an absurdity. St. Paul's testimony in Gal. iv. 1, shows the condition of servants: "Now I say unto you, that the heir, so long as he is a child, DIFFERETH NOTHING FROM A SERVANT, though he be lord of all."
That Abraham's servants were voluntary, that their interests were identified with those of their master's family, and that the utmost confidence was reposed in them, is shown in their being armed.—Gen. xiv. 14, 15. When Abraham's servant went to Padanaram, the young Princess Rebecca did not disdain to say to him, “Drink, MY LORD,” as “she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.” [Gen. 24:18].
Laban, the brother of Rebecca, “ungirded his camels, and brought him water to wash his feet, and the men's feet that were with him!” In 1 Sam. ix. is an account of a festival in the city of Zuph, at which Samuel presided. None but those bidden, sat down at the feast, and only “about thirty persons” were invited. Quite a select party!—the elite of the city. Saul and his servant had just arrived at Zuph, and both of them, at Samuel's solicitation, accompany him as invited guests.
“And Samuel took Saul and his SERVANT, and brought THEM into the PARLOR, (!) and made THEM sit in the CHIEFEST SEATS among those that were bidden.” [1 Sam. 9:22] A servant invited by the chief judge, ruler, and prophet in Israel, to dine publicly with a select party, in company with his master, who was at the same time anointed King of Israel! and this servant introduced by Samuel into the PARLOR, and assigned, with his master, to the chiefest seat at the table! This was “one of the servants” of Kish, Saul's father [1 Sam. 9:3]; not the steward or the chief of them—not at all a picked man, but "one of the servants;" any one that could be most easily spared, as no endowments specially rare would be likely to find scope in looking after asses.
Again: we find Elah, the King of Israel, at a festive entertainment, in the house of Arza, his steward, or head servant, with whom he seems to have been on terms of familiarity.— 1 Kings xvi. 8, 9. See also the intercourse between Gideon and his servant.— Judg. vii. 10, 11. Jonathan and his servant.—1 Sam. xiv. 1-14. Elisha and his servant,.—2 Kings iv. v. vi.
III. The case of the Gibeonites. The condition of the inhabitants of Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim, under the Hebrew commonwealth, is quoted in triumph by the advocates of slavery; and truly they are right welcome to all the crumbs that can be gleaned from it. Milton's devils made desperate snatches at fruit that turned to ashes on their lips. The spirit of slavery raves under tormenting gnawings, and casts about in blind frenzy for something to ease, or even to mock them. But for this, it would never have clutched at the Gibeonites, for even the incantations of the demon cauldron, could not extract from their case enough to tantalize starvation's self. But to the question. What was the condition of the Gibeonites under the Israelites?
(1.) It was voluntary. Their own proposition to Joshua was to become servants. Josh. ix. 8, 11. It was accepted, but the kind of service which they should perform, was not specified until their gross imposition came to light; they were then assigned to menial offices in the Tabernacle. (2.) They were not domestic servants in the families of the Israelites. They still resided in their own cities, cultivated their own fields, tended their flocks and herds, and exercised the functions of a distinct, though not independent community. They were subject to the Jewish nation as tributaries. So far from being distributed among the Israelites, and their internal organization as a distinct people abolished, they remained a separate, and, in some respects, an independent community for many centuries. When attacked by the Amorites, they applied to the Israelites as confederates for aid—it was rendered, their enemies routed, and themselves left unmolested in their cities. Josh. x. 6-18.
Long afterwards, Saul slew some of them, and God sent upon Israel a three years' famine for it. David inquired of the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you, and wherewith shall I make the atonement?” At their demand, he delivered up to them, seven of Saul's descendants. 2 Sam. xxi. 1-9. The whole transaction was a formal recognition of the Gibeonites as a distinct people. There is no intimation that they served families, or individuals of the Israelites, but only the "house of God," or the Tabernacle. This was established first at Gilgal, a day's journey from their cities; and then at Shiloh, nearly two day's journey from them; where it continued about 350 years.
During this period, the Gibeonites inhabited their ancient cities and territory. Only a few, comparatively, could have been absent at any time in attendance on the Tabernacle. Wherever allusion is made to them in the history, the main body are spoken of as at home. It is preposterous to suppose that all the inhabitants of these four cities could find employment at the Tabernacle. One of them "was a great city, as one of the royal cities;" so large, that a confederacy of five kings, apparently the most powerful in the land, was deemed necessary for its destruction.
It is probable that the men were divided into classes, ministering in rotation—each class a few days or weeks at a time. This service was their national tribute to the Israelites, for the privilege of residence and protection under their government. No service seems to have been required of the females. As these Gibeonites were Canaanites, and as they had greatly exasperated the Israelites by impudent imposition, and lying, we might assuredly expect that they would reduce them to the condition of chattels if there was any case in which God permitted them to do so.
IV. Throughout the Mosaic system, God warns the Israelites against holding their servants in such a condition as they were held in by the Egyptians. How often are they pointed back to the grindings of their prison-house! What motives to the exercise of justice and kindness towards their servants, are held out to their fears in threatened judgments; to their hopes in promised good; and to all within them that could feel, by those oft repeated words of tenderness and terror! "For ye were bondmen in the land of Egypt"—waking anew the memory of tears and anguish, and of the wrath that avenged them.
God's denunciations against the bondage of Egypt make it incumbent on us to ascertain, of what rights the Israelites were plundered, and what they retained.
EGYPTIAN BONDAGE ANALYZED.
(1.) The Israelites were not dispersed among the families of Egypt,* but formed a separate community. Gen. xlvi. 35. Ex. viii. 22, 24; ix. 26; x. 23; xi. 7; ii. 9; xvi. 22; xvii. 5.
* The Egyptians evidently had domestic servants living in their families; these may have been slaves; allusion is made to them in Ex. ix. 14, 20, 21.
(2.) They had the exclusive possession of the land of Goshen.† Gen. xlv. 18; xlvii. 6, 11, 27. Ex. xii. 4, 19, 22, 23, 27.
† The land of Goshen was a large tract of country, east of the Pelusian arm of the Nile, and between it and the head of the Red Sea, and the lower border of Palestine. The probable center of that portion, occupied by the Israelites, could hardly have been less than sixty miles from the city. The border of Goshen nearest to Egypt must have been many miles distant. See "Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt," an able article by Professor Robinson, in the Biblical Repository for October, 1832.
(3.) They lived in permanent dwellings. These were houses, not tents. In Ex. xii. 6, 22, the two side posts, and the upper door posts, and the lintel of the houses are mentioned. Each family seems to have occupied a house by itself,— Acts vii. 20. Ex. xii. 4—and judging from the regulation about the eating of the Passover, they could hardly have been small ones, Ex. xii. 4, probably contained separate apartments, and places for concealment. Ex. ii. 2, 3; Acts vii. 20. They appear to have been well apparelled. Ex. xii. 11. To have had their own burial grounds. Ex. xiii. 19, and xiv. 11.
(4.) They owned "a mixed multitude of flocks and herds," and "very much cattle." Ex. xii. 32, 37, 38. (5.) They had their own form of government, and preserved their tribe and family divisions, and their internal organization throughout, though still a province of Egypt, and tributary to it. Ex. ii. 1; xii. 19, 21; vi. 14, 25; v. 19; iii. 16, 18. (6.) They seem to have had in a considerable measure, the disposal of their own time,— Ex. xxiii. 4; iii. 16, 18; xii. 6; ii. 9; and iv. 27, 29-31. And to have practised the fine arts. Ex. xxxii. 4; xxxv. 22-35. (7.) They were all armed. Ex. xxxii. 27.
(8.) They held their possessions independently, and the Egyptians seem to have regarded them as inviolable. No intimation is given that the Egyptians dispossessed them of their habitations, or took away their flocks, or herds, or crops, or implements of agriculture, or any article of property.
(9.) All the females seem to have known something of domestic refinements; they were familiar with instruments of music, and skilled in the working of fine fabrics. Ex. xv. 20; xxxv. 25, 26. (10.) Service seems to have been exacted from none but adult males. Nothing is said from which the bond service of females could be inferred; the hiding of Moses three months by his mother, and the payment of wages to her by Pharaoh's daughter, go against such a supposition. Ex. ii. 29.
(11.) So far from being fed upon a given allowance, their food was abundant, and of great variety. "They sat by the flesh-pots," and "did eat bread to the full." Ex. xvi. 3; xxiv. 1; xvii. 5; iv. 29; vi. 14; "they did eat fish freely, and cucumbers, and and melons, and leeks, and onions, and garlic." Num. xi. 4, 5; x. 18; xx. 5. (12). The great body of the people were not in the service of the Egyptians. (a.) The extent and variety of their own possessions, together with such a cultivation of their crops as would provide them with bread, and such care of their immense flocks and herds, as would secure their profitable increase, must have furnished constant employment for the main body of the nation. (b.) During the plague of darkness, God informs us that "ALL the children of Israel had light in their dwellings." We infer that they were there to enjoy it. (c.) It seems improbable that the making of brick, the only service named during the latter part of their sojourn in Egypt, could have furnished permanent employment for the bulk of the nation. See also Ex. iv. 29-31.
Besides, when Eastern nations employed tributaries, it was as now, in the use of the levy, requiring them to furnish a given quota, drafted off periodically, so that comparatively but a small portion of the nation would be absent at any one time. Probably one-fifth part of the proceeds of their labor was required of the Israelites in common with the Egyptians. Gen. xlvii. 24, 26. Instead of taking it from their crops, (Goshen being better for pasturage) they exacted it of them in brick making; and it is quite probable that labor was exacted only from the poorer Israelites, the wealthy being able to pay their tribute in money. Ex. iv. 27-31. Contrast this bondage of Egypt with American slavery. Have our slaves "very much cattle," and "a mixed multitude of flocks and herds?" Do they live in commodious houses of their own, "sit by the flesh-pots," "eat fish freely," and "eat bread to the full?" Do they live in a separate community, in their distinct tribes, under their own rulers, in the exclusive occupation of an extensive tract of country for the culture of their crops, and for rearing immense herds of their own cattle—and all these held inviolable by their masters? Are our female slaves free from exactions of labor and liabilities of outrage? or when employed, are they paid wages, as was the Israelitish woman by the king's daughter? Have they the disposal of their own time, and the means of cultivating social refinements, for practicing the fine arts, and for personal improvement?
THE ISRAELITES UNDER THE BONDAGE OF EGYPT, ENJOYED ALL THESE RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES. True, "all the service wherein they made them serve was with rigor." But what was this when compared with the incessant toil of American slaves, the robbery of all their time and earnings, and even the power to own anything, or acquire anything? a "quart of corn a day," the legal allowance of food!*
* Law of N. C. Haywood's Manual, 524-5.
their only clothing for one-half the year, "one shirt and one pair of pantaloons!"†
† Law of La. Martin's Digest, 610.
two hours and a half only, for rest and refreshment in the twenty-four!‡
‡ Law of La. Act of July 7, 1806. Martin's Digest, 610-12.
—their dwellings, hovels, unfit for human residence, with but one apartment, where both sexes and all ages herd promiscuously at night, like the beasts of the field. Add to this, the ignorance, and degradation; the daily sunderings of kindred, the revelries of lust, the lacerations and baptisms of blood, sanctioned by law, and patronized by public sentiment.
What was the bondage of Egypt when compared with this? And yet for her oppression of the poor, God smote her with plagues, and trampled her as the mire, till she passed away in his wrath, and the place that knew her in her pride, knew her no more. Ah! "I have seen the afflictions of my people, and I have heard their groanings, and am come down to deliver them."
HE DID COME, and Egypt sank a ruinous heap, and her blood closed over her. If such was God's retribution for the oppression of heathen Egypt, of how much sorer punishment shall a Christian people be thought worthy, who cloak with religion a system, in comparison with which the bondage of Egypt dwindles to nothing? Let those believe who can that God commissioned his people to rob others of all their rights, while he denounced against them wrath to the uttermost, if they practised the far lighter oppression of Egypt—which robbed its victims of only the least and cheapest of their rights, and left the females unplundered even of these. What! Is God divided against himself? When He had just turned Egypt into a funeral pile; while his curse yet blazed upon her unburied dead, and his bolts still hissed amidst her slaughter, and the smoke of her torment went upwards because she had "ROBBED THE POOR," did He license the VICTIMS of robbery to rob the poor of ALL? As Lawgiver, did he create a system tenfold more grinding than that for which he had just hurled Pharaoh headlong, and overwhelmed his princes, and his hosts, till "hell was moved to meet them at their coming?"
We now proceed to examine various objections which will doubtless be set in array against all the foregoing conclusions.
The advocates of slavery find themselves at their wits end in pressing the Bible into their service. Every movement shows them hard-pushed. Their ever-varying shifts, their forced constructions, and blind guesswork, proclaim both their cause desperate, and themselves. The Bible defenses thrown around slavery by professed ministers of the Gospel, do so torture common sense, Scripture, and historical facts it were hard to tell whether absurdity, fatuity, ignorance, or blasphemy, predominates, in the compound; each strives so lustily for the mastery, it may be set down a drawn battle.
How often has it been bruited that the color of the negro is the Cain-mark, propagated downward. Cain's posterity started an opposition to the ark, forsooth, and rode out the flood with flying streamers! Why should not a miracle be wrought to point such an argument, and fill out for slaveholders a Divine title-deed, vindicating the ways of God to man?
This prophecy of Noah is the vade mecum of slaveholders, and they never venture abroad without it; it is a pocket-piece for sudden occasion, a keepsake to dote over, a charm to spell-bind opposition, and a magnet to draw around their standard "whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie." But "cursed be Canaan" is a poor drug to ease a throbbing conscience —a mocking lullaby, to unquiet tossings, and vainly crying "Peace be still," where God wakes war, and breaks his thunders. Those who justify negro slavery by the curse on Canaan, assume all the points in debate. (1.) That slavery was prophesied rather than mere service to others, and individual bondage rather than national subjection and tribute.
(2.) That the prediction of crime justifies it; at least absolving those whose crimes fulfill it, if not transforming the crimes into virtues. How piously the Pharaohs might have quoted the prophecy, "Thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and they shall afflict them four hundred years." And then, what saints were those that crucified the Lord of glory!
(3.) That the Africans are descended from Canaan. Whereas Africa was peopled from Egypt and Ethiopia, and they were settled by Mizraim and Cush. For the location and boundaries of Canaan's posterity, see Gen. x. 15-19. So a prophecy of evil to one people, is quoted to justify its infliction upon another.
Perhaps it may be argued that Canaan includes all Ham's posterity. If so, the prophecy is yet unfulfilled. The other sons of Ham settled Egypt and Assyria, and, conjointly with Shem, Persia, and afterward, to some extent, the Grecian and Roman empires. The history of these nations gives no verification of the prophecy. Whereas, the history of Canaan's descendants for more than three thousand years, is a record of its fulfillment.
First, they were put to tribute by the Israelites; then by the Medes and Persians; then by the Macedonians, Grecians and Romans, successively; and finally, were subjected by the Ottoman dynasty, where they yet remain. Thus Canaan has been for ages the servant mainly of Shem and Japhet, and secondarily of the other sons of Ham.
It may still be objected, that though Canaan alone is named in the curse, yet the 22d and 24th verses show the posterity of Ham in general to be meant. “And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.” “And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his YOUNGER son had done unto him, and said,” &c. [Genesis 9:22, 24]. It is argued that this "younger son" can not be Canaan, as he was the grandson of Noah, and therefore it must be Ham. We answer, whoever that "younger son" was, Canaan alone was named in the curse. Besides, the Hebrew word Ben, signifies son, grandson, or any of one the posterity of an individual. "Know ye Laban the SON of Nahor?" Gen. xxix. 5. Laban was the grandson of Nahor. Gen. xxix. 5.
"Mephibosheth the SON of Saul.” 2 Sam. xix. 24. Mephibosheth was the grandson of Saul. 2 Sam. ix. 6. "There is a SON born to Naomi." Ruth iv. 17. This was the son of Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi. "Let seven men of his (Saul's) SONS be delivered unto us." 2 Sam. xxi. 6. Seven of Saul's grandsons were delivered up. Laban rose up and kissed his SONS." Gen. xxi. 55. These were his grandsons. "The driving of Jehu the SON of Nimshi." 2 Kings ix. 20. Jehu was the grandson of Nimshi. Shall we forbid the inspired writer to use the same word when speaking of Noah's grandson?
Further, Ham was not the “younger son.” The order of enumeration makes him the second son. If it be said that Bible usage varies, the order of birth not always being observed in enumerations, the reply is, that, enumeration in that order, is the rule, in any other order the exception. Besides, if a younger member of a family, takes precedence of older ones in the family record, it is a mark of pre-eminence, either in endowments, or providential instrumentality.
Abraham, though sixty years younger than his eldest brother, stands first in the family genealogy. Nothing in Ham's history shows him pre-eminent; besides, the Hebrew word Hakkatan rendered “the younger,” means the little, small. The same word is used in Isa. xl. 22. "A LTTTLE ONE shall become a thousand." Isa. xxii. 24. “All vessels of SMALL quantity.” Ps. cxv. 13. “He will bless them that fear the Lord both SMALL and great.” Ex. xviii. 22. “But every SMALL matter they shall judge.”
It would be a literal rendering of Gen. ix. 24, if it were translated thus, “When Noah knew what his little son,* or grandson (Beno hakkatan) had done unto him, he said cursed be Canaan,” &c.
* The French follows the same analogy; grandson being petit fils (little son).
Further, even if the Africans were the descendants of Canaan, the assumption that their enslavement fulfills this prophecy, lacks even plausibility, for, only a fraction of the Africans have at any time been the slaves of other nations. If the objector say in reply, that a large majority of the Africans have always been slaves at home, we answer: It is false in point of fact, though zealously bruited often to serve a turn; and if it were true, how does it help the argument? The [Genesis 9:25] prophecy was, “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his BRETHREN,” not unto himself!
OBJECTION II.—“If a man smite his servant or his maid with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his money.” Ex. xxi. 20, 21. What was the design of this regulation? Was it to grant masters an indulgence to beat servants with impunity, and an assurance, that if they beat them to death, the offence should not be capital? This is substantially what commentators tell us. What Deity do such men worship? Some blood-gorged Moloch, enthroned on human hecatombs, and snuffing carnage for incense?
Did He who thundered [Exodus 20:13] from Sinai's flames, “THOU SHALT NOT KILL,” offer a bounty on murder? Whoever analyzes the Mosaic system, will find a moot court in session, trying law points—settling definitions, or laying down rules of evidence, in almost every chapter. Num. xxxv. 10-22; Deut. xi. 11, and xix. 4-6; Lev. xxiv. 19-22; Ex. xxi. 18, 19, are a few, out of many cases stated, with tests furnished the judges by which to detect the intent, in actions brought before them. Their ignorance of judicial proceedings, laws of evidence, &c., made such instructions necessary. The detail gone into, in the verses quoted, is manifestly to enable them to get at the motive and find out whether the master designed to kill.
(1.) “If a man smite his servant with a rod.”—The instrument used, gives a clue to the intent. See Num. xxxv. 16,18. A rod, not an axe, nor a sword, nor a bludgeon, nor any other death-weapon—hence, from the kind of instrument, no design to kill would be inferred; for intent to kill would hardly have taken a rod for its weapon.
But if the servant die under his hand, then the unfitness of the instrument, is point blank against him; for, to strike him with a rod until he dies, argues a great many blows and great violence, and this kept up to the death-gasp, showed an intent to kill. Hence “he shall surely be punished.” But if he continued a day or two, the length of time that he lived, together with the kind of instrument used, and the master's pecuniary interest in his life, (“he is his money,”), all made a strong case of circumstantial evidence, showing that the master did not design to kill.
Further, the word nakam, here rendered punished, is not so rendered in another instance. Yet it occurs thirty-five times in the Old Testament, and in almost every place is translated “avenge,” in a few, “to take vengeance,” or “to revenge,” and in this instance ALONE, “punish.”
As it stands in our translation, the pronoun preceding it, refers to the master; whereas it should refer to the crime, and the word rendered punished, should have been rendered avenged. The meaning is this: If a man smite his servant or his maid with a rod, and he die under his hand, IT (the death) shall surely be avenged, or literally, by avenging it shall be avenged; that is, the death of the servant shall be avenged by the death of the master. So in the next verse, “If he continue a day or two,” his death is not to be avenged by the death of the master, as in that case the crime was to be adjudged manslaughter, and not murder.
In the following verse, another case of personal injury is stated, for which the injurer is to pay a sum of money; and yet our translators employ the same phraseology in both places. One, an instance of deliberate, wanton, killing by piecemeal. The other, an accidental, and comparatively slight injury—of the inflictor, in both cases, they say the same thing! "He shall surely be punished." Now, just the discrimination to be looked for where GOD legislates, is marked in the original. In the case of the servant willfully murdered, He says, “It (the death) shall surely be avenged,” that is, the life of the wrong doer shall expiate the crime. The same word is used in the Old Testament, when the greatest wrongs are redressed, by devoting the perpetrators to destruction.
In the case of the unintentional injury, in the following verse, God says, “he shall surely be fined, (Aunash.) He shall pay as the judges determine.” The simple meaning of the word anash, is to lay a fine. It is used in Deut. xxii. 19: “They shall amerce him in one hundred shekels,” and in 2 Chron. xxxvi. 3: “He condemned (mulcted) the land in a hundred talents of gold.” That avenging the death of the servant, was neither imprisonment, nor stripes, nor a fine, but that it was taking the master's life we infer, (1.) From the use of the word nakam. See Gen. iv. 24; Josh. x. 13; Judg. xiv. 7; xvi. 28; 1 Sam. xiv. 24; xviii. 25; xxv. 31; 2 Sam. iv. 8; Judg. v. 2; 1 Sam. xxv. 26-33.
(2.) From the express statute, Lev. xxv. 17: “He that killeth ANY man shall surely be put to death.” Also, Num. xxxv. 30, 31: “Whoso killeth ANY person, the murderer shall be put to death. Moreover, ye shall take NO SATISFACTION for the life of a murderer which is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.” (3.) The Targum of Jonathan gives the verse thus, “Death by the sword shall surely be adjudged.” The Targum of Jerusalem, “Vengeance shall be taken for him to the uttermost.” Jarchi, the same. The Samaritan version: “He shall die the death.”
Again, the clause “for he is his money,” is quoted to prove that the servant is his master's property, and therefore, if he died, the master was not to be punished. The assumption is, that the phrase, "HE IS HIS MONEY," proves not only that the servant is worth money to the master, but that he is an article of property.
If the advocates of slavery insist upon taking this principle of interpretation into the Bible, and turning it loose, let them stand and draw in self-defence. If they endorse for it at one point, they must stand sponsors all around the circle. It will be too late to cry for quarter when its stroke clears the table, and tilts them among the sweepings beneath.
The Bible abounds with such expressions as the following: “This (bread) is my body;” “this (wine) is my blood” [Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19]; “all they (the Israelites) are brass and tin” [Ezekiel 22:18]; “this (water) is the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives” [2 Samuel 23:17]; “the Lord God is a sun and a shield” [Ps. 84:11]; “God is love” [1 John 4:8]; “the seven good ears are seven years, and the seven good kine are seven years” [Gen. 41:26]; “the tree of the field is man's life” [Deut. 20:19]; “God is a consuming fire” [Deut. 4:24; Deut. 9:3; Heb. 12:29]; “he is his money” [Ex. 21:21], &c.
A passion for the exact literalities of the Bible is so amiable, it were hard not to gratify it in this case. The words of the original are (Kaspo-hu), “his silver is he.” The objector's principle of interpretation is a philosopher's stone! Its miracle touch transmutes five feet eight inches of flesh and bones into solid silver! Quite a permanent servant, if not so nimble with all—reasoning against "forever," is forestalled henceforth, and Deut. xxiii. 15, utterly outwitted. The obvious meaning of the phrase, "He is his money," is, he is worth money to his master, and since, if the master had killed him, it would have taken money out of his pocket, the pecuniary loss, the kind of instrument used, and the fact of his living some time after the injury, (if the master meant to kill, he would be likely to do it while about it), all together make a strong case of presumptive evidence clearing the master of intent to kill.
But let us look at the objector's inferences. One is, that as the master might dispose of his property as he pleased, he was not to be punished, if he destroyed it. Whether the servant died under the master's hand, or after a day or two, he was equally his property; and the objector admits that in the first case the master is to be “surely punished” for destroying his own property! The other inference is, that since the continuance of a day or two, cleared the master of intent to kill, the loss of the slave would be a sufficient punishment for inflicting the injury which caused his death.
This inference makes the Mosaic
law false to its own principles. A pecuniary loss was no part of the legal
claim, where a person took the life of another. In such case, the law
spurned money, whatever the sum. God would not cheapen human life, by
balancing it with such a weight. “Ye shall take NO SATISFACTION for the
life of a murderer, but he shall surely be put to death.” Num. xxxv. 31.
Even in excusable homicide, where an axe slipped from the helve and killed a man, no sum of money availed to release from confinement in the city of refuge, until the death of the High Priest. Numb. xxxv. 32.
The doctrine that the loss of the servant would be a penalty adequate to the desert of the master, admits his guilt and his desert of some punishment, and it prescribes a kind of punishment, rejected by the law, in all cases where man took the life of man, whether with or without intent to kill.
In short, the objector annuls an integral part of the system—makes a new law, and coolly metes out such penalty as he thinks fit. Divine legislation revised and improved! The master who struck out his servant's tooth, whether intentionally or not, was required to set him free. The pecuniary loss to the master was the same as though he had killed him. Look at the two cases. A master beats his servant so that he dies of his wounds; another accidentally strikes out his servant's tooth,—the pecuniary loss of both masters is the same.
If the loss of the slave's services is punishment sufficient for the crime of killing him, would God command the same punishment for the accidental knocking out of a tooth? Indeed, unless the injury was done inadvertently, the loss of the servant's services was only a part of the punishment—mere reparation to the individual for injury done; the main punishment, that strictly judicial, was reparation to the community.
To set the servant free, and thus proclaim his injury, his right to redress, and the measure of it—answered not the ends of public justice. The law made an example of the offender, that “those that remain might hear and fear.” “If a man cause a blemish in his neighbor, as he hath done, so shall it be done unto him. Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Ye shall have one manner of law as well for the STRANGER as for one of your own country.” Lev. xxiv. 19, 20, 22.
Finally, if a master smote out his servant's tooth the law smote out his tooth—thus redressing the public wrong; and it cancelled the servant's obligation to the master, thus giving some compensation for the injury done, and exempting him from perilous liabilities in future.
OBJECTION III. “Both thy bondmen and bondmaids which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you, of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land, and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen forever.” Lev. xxv. 44-46.
The points in these verses, urged as proof, that the Mosaic system sanctioned slavery, are 1. The word “BONDMEN.” 2. “BUY.” 3. “INHERITANCE AND POSSESSION.” 4. “FOREVER.”
The buying of servants was discussed, pp. 17-22, and holding them as a "possession" pp. 37-46. We will now ascertain what sanction to slavery is derivable from the terms "bondmen," "inheritance," and "forever."
1. “BONDMEN.” The fact that servants from the heathen are called “bondmen,” while others are called “servants,” is quoted as proof that the former were slaves. As the caprices of King James's translators were not inspired, we need stand in no special awe of them. The word here rendered bondmen is uniformly rendered servants elsewhere. The Hebrew word “ebedh,” the plural of which is here translated “bondmen,” is in Isa. xlii. 1, applied to Christ. “Behold my servant (bondman, slave?) whom I have chosen.” So Isa. lii. 13. “Behold my servant (Christ) shall deal prudently.” In 1 Kings xii. 6, 7, to King Rehoboam. “And they spake unto him, saying if thou wilt be a servant unto this people, then they will be thy servants forever.” In 2 Chron. xii. 7, 8, 9, 13, to the king and all the nation.
In fine, the word is applied to all persons doing service for others—to magistrates, to all governmental officers, to tributaries, to all the subjects of governments, to younger sons—defining their relation to the first born, who is called Lord and ruler—to prophets, to kings, to the Messiah, and in respectful addresses not less than fifty times in the Old Testament.
If the Israelites not only held slaves, but multitudes of them, if Abraham had thousands and if they abounded under the Mosaic system, why had their language no word that meant slave? That language must be woefully poverty-stricken, which has no signs to represent the most common and familiar objects and conditions. To represent by the same word, and without figure, property, and the owner of that property, is a solecism. Ziba was an “ebedh,” yet he “owned” (!) twenty ebedhs!
In our language, we have both servant and slave. Why? Because we have both the things and need signs for them. If the tongue had a sheath, as swords have scabbards, we should have some name for it: but our dictionaries give us none. Why? Because there is no such thing.
But the objector asks, “Would not the Israelites use their word ebedh if they spoke of the slave of a heathen?” Answer. Their national servants or tributaries, are spoken of frequently, but domestic servants so rarely that no necessity existed, even if they were slaves, for coining a new word. Besides, the fact of their being domestics, under heathen laws and usages, proclaimed their liabilities; their locality made a specific term unnecessary. But if the Israelites had not only servants, but a multitude of slaves, a word meaning slave, would have been indispensable for every day convenience.
Further, the laws of the Mosaic system were so many sentinels on the outposts to warn off foreign practices. The border ground of Canaan, was quarantine ground, enforcing the strictest non-intercourse in usages between the without and the within.
2. “FOREVER.” This is quoted to prove that servants were to serve during their life time, and their posterity from generation to generation. No such idea is contained in the passage. The word “forever,” instead of defining the length of individual service, proclaims the permanence of the regulation laid down in the two verses preceding, namely, that their permanent domestics should be of the Strangers, and not of the Israelites; it declares the duration of that general provision. As if God had said, “You shall always get your permanent laborers from the nations round about you—your servants shall always be of that class of persons.” As it stands in the original, it is plain—“Forever of them shall ye serve yourselves.” This is the literal rendering.
That “forever” refers
to the permanent relations of a community, rather than to the services of
individuals, is a fair inference from the form of the expression,
“Both thy bondmen, &c., shall be of the heathen. OF THEM shall ye buy,” &c. “THEY shall be your possession.” To say nothing of the uncertainty of these individuals surviving those after whom they are to live, the language used, applies more naturally to a body of people, than to individual servants. Besides perpetual service cannot be argued from the term forever. The ninth and tenth verses of the same chapter, limit it absolutely by the jubilee. “Then thou shalt cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound * * throughout ALL your land.” “And ye shall proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto ALL the inhabitants thereof.” [Leviticus 25:9-10.]
It may be objected that “inhabitants” here means Israelitish inhabitants alone. The command is, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto ALL the inhabitants thereof.” Besides, in the sixth verse, there is an enumeration of the different classes of the inhabitants, in which servants and Strangers are included; and in all the regulations of the jubilee, and the sabbatical year, the Strangers are included in the precepts, prohibitions, and promises.
Again: the year of jubilee was ushered in, by the day of atonement. What did these institutions show forth? The day of atonement prefigured the atonement of Christ, and the year of jubilee, the gospel jubilee. And did they prefigure an atonement and a jubilee to Jews only? Were they types of sin remitted, and of salvation proclaimed to the nation of Israel alone? Is there no redemption for us Gentiles in these ends of the earth, and is our hope presumption and impiety? Did that old partition wall survive the shock, that made earth quake, and hid the sun, burst graves and rocks, and rent the temple veil? and did the Gospel only rear it higher to thunder direr perdition from its frowning battlements on all without? No! The God of OUR salvation lives. "Good tidings of great joy shall be to ALL people." One shout shall swell from all the ransomed, "Thou hast redeemed us unto God by thy blood out of EVERY kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."
To deny that the blessings of the jubilee extended to the servants from the Gentiles, makes Christianity Judaism. It not only eclipses the glory of the Gospel, but strikes out its sun. The refusal to release servants at the jubilee falsified and disannulled a grand leading type of the atonement, and was a libel on the doctrine of Christ's redemption.
Finally, even if forever did refer to individual service, we have ample precedents for limiting the term by the jubilee. The same word defines the length of time which Jewish servants served who did not go out in the seventh year. And all admit that they went out at the jubilee. Ex. xxi. 2-6; Deut. xv. 12-17. The 23d verse of the same chapter [Leviticus 25] is quoted to prove that “forever” in the 46th verse, extends beyond the jubilee. “The land shall not be sold FOREVER, for the land is mine”—since it would hardly be used in different senses in the same general connection.
As forever, in the 46th verse, respects the general arrangement, and not individual service the objection does not touch the argument. Besides in the 46th verse, the word used, is Olam, meaning throughout the period, whatever that may be. Whereas in the 23d verse, it is Tsemithuth, meaning, a cutting off.
3. “INHERITANCE AND POSSESSION.” “Ye shall take them as an INHERITANCE for your children after you to inherit them for a possession.” This refers to the nations, and not to the individual servants, procured from these nations. We have already shown, that servants could not be held as a property-possession, and inheritance; that they became servants of their own accord, and were paid wages; that they were released by law from their regular labor nearly half the days in each year, and thoroughly instructed; that the servants were protected in all their personal, social, and religious rights, equally with their masters, &c. All remaining, after these ample reservations, would be small temptation, either to the lust of power or of lucre; a profitable "possession" and "inheritance," truly! What if our American slaves were all placed in just such a condition!
Alas, for that soft, melodious circumlocution, “Our PECULIAR species of property!” Verily, emphasis would be cadence, and euphony and irony meet together! What eager snatches at mere words, and bald technics, irrespective of connection, principles of construction, Bible usages, or limitations of meaning by other passages—and all to eke out such a sense as sanctifies existing usages, thus making God pander for lust.
The words nahal and nahala, inherit and inheritance, by no means necessarily signify articles of property. “The people answered the king and said, we have none inheritance in the son of Jesse.” 2 Chron. x. 16. Did they mean gravely to disclaim the holding of their king as an article of property? “Children are an heritage (inheritance) of the Lord.” Ps. cxxvii. 3.
“Pardon our iniquity, and take us for thine inheritance.” Ex. xxxiv. 9. When God pardons his enemies, and adopts them as children, does he make them articles of property? Are forgiveness, and chattel-making, synonymes? "Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage" (inheritance.) Ps. cxix. 111. “I am their inheritance.” Ezek. xliv. 28.
“I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance.” Ps. ii. 8. "For the Lord will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance." Ps. xciv. 14. See also Deut. iv. 20; Josh. xiii. 33; Ps. lxxxii. 8; lxxviii. 62, 7l; Prov. xiv. 18. The question whether the servants were a PROPERTY-“possession,” has been already discussed—pp. 37-46—we need add in this place but a word.
Ahuzza rendered "possession." “And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt.” Gen. xlvii. 11. In what sense was Goshen the possession of the Israelites? Answer, in the sense of having it to live in. In what sense were the Israelites to possess these nations, and take them as an inheritance for their children? Answer, they possessed them as a permanent source of supply for domestic or household servants. And this relation to these nations was to go down to posterity as a standing regulation, having the certainty and regularity of a descent by inheritance. The sense of the whole regulation may be given thus: “Thy permanent domestics, which thou shalt have, shall be of the nations that are round about you, of them shall ye get male and female domestics.”
“Moreover of the children of the foreigners that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye get, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land, and they shall be your permanent resource.” “And ye shall take them as a perpetual provision for your children after you, to hold as a constant source of supply. ALWAYS of them shall ye serve yourselves.” The design of the passage is manifest from its structure. It was to point out the class of persons from which they were to get their supply of servants, and the way in which they were to get them.
OBJECTION IV. “If thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee, thou shalt not compel him to serve as a BOND-SERVANT, but as an HIRED-SERVANT, and as a sojourner shall he be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubilee.” Lev. xxv. 39, 40.
As only one class is called “hired,” it is inferred that servants of the other class were not paid for their labor. That God, while thundering anathemas against those who “used their neighbor's service without wages,” granted a special indulgence to his chosen people to force others to work, and rob them of earnings, provided always, in selecting their victims, they spared "the gentlemen of property and standing," and pounced only upon the strangers and the common people.
The inference that “hired” is synonymous with paid, and that those servants not called “hired” were not paid for their labor, is a mere assumption. The meaning of the English verb to hire, is to procure for a temporary use at a certain price—to engage a person to temporary service for wages. That is also the meaning of the Hebrew word “saukar.” It is not used when the procurement of permanent service is spoken of. Now, we ask, would permanent servants, those who constituted a stationary part of the family, have been designated by the same term that marks temporary servants? The every-day distinction on this subject, are familiar as table-talk. In many families the domestics perform only the regular work.
Whatever is occasional merely, as the washing of a family, is done by persons hired expressly for the purpose. The familiar distinction between the two classes, is “servants,” and “hired help,” (not paid help.) Both classes are paid. One is permanent, and the other occasional and temporary, and therefore in this case called “hired.”*
* To suppose a servant robbed of his earnings because he is not called a hired servant, is profound induction! If I employ a man at twelve dollars a month to work my farm, he is my “hired” man; but if I give him such a portion of the crop, or in other words, if he works my farm “on shares,” every farmer knows that he is no longer called my “hired” man. Yet he works the same farm, in the same way, at the same times, and with the same teams and tools; and does the same amount of work in the year, and perhaps clears twenty dollars a month, instead of twelve. Now as he is no longer called "hired," and as he still works my farm, suppose my neighbors sagely infer, that since he is not my "hired" laborer, I rob him of his earnings, and with all the gravity of owls, pronounce the oracular decision, and hoot it abroad. My neighbors are deep divers!—like some theological professors, they not only go to the bottom but come up covered with the tokens.
A variety of particulars are recorded distinguishing hired from bought servants. (1.) Hired servants were paid daily at the close of their work. Lev. xix. 13; Deut. xxiv. 14, 15; Job vii. 2; Matt. xx. 8. “Bought” servants were paid in advance, (a reason for their being called bought), and those that went out at the seventh year received a gratuity. Deut. xv. 12, 13.
(2.) The "hired" were paid in money, the “bought” received their gratuity, at least, in grain, cattle, and the product of the vintage. Deut. xiv. 17. (3.) The “hired” lived in their own families, the “bought” were a part of their masters' families. (4.) The “hired” supported their families out of their wages; the “bought” and their families were supported by the master besides their wages. The "bought" servants, were, as a class, superior to the hired—were more trust-worthy, had greater privileges, and occupied a higher station in society.
(1.) They were intimately incorporated with the family of the masters, were guests at family festivals, and social solemnities, from which hired servants were excluded. Lev. xxii. 10; Ex. xii. 43, 45. (2.) Their interests were far more identified with those of their masters' family. They were often, actually or prospectively, heirs of their masters' estates, as in the case of Eliezer, of Ziba, and the sons of Bilhah, and Zilpah. When there were no sons, or when they were unworthy, bought servants were made heirs. Prov. xvii. 2. We find traces of this usage in the New Testament. “But when the husband-men saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.” Luke xx. 14. In no instance does a hired servant inherit his master's estate.
(3.) Marriages took place between servants and their
masters' daughters. “Sheshan had a servant, an Egyptian, whose name was
Jarha. And Sheshan gave his daughter to Jarha his servant to wife.” 1
Chron. ii. 34, 35. There is no instance of a hired servant forming such an
alliance. (4.) Bought servants and their descendants were treated
with the same affection and respect as the other members of the family.*
* "For the purchased servant who is an Israelite, or proselyte, shall fare as his master. The master shall not eat fine bread, and his servant bread of bran. Nor yet drink old wine, and give his servant new; nor sleep on soft pillows, and bedding, and his servant on straw. I say unto you, that he that gets a purchased servant does well to make him as his friend, or he will prove to his employer as if he got himself a master.”—Maimonides, in Mishna Kiddushim. Chap. 1, Sec. 2.
The treatment of Abraham's servants, Gen. xxv.—the intercourse between Gideon and his servant, Judg. vii. 10, 11; Saul and his servant, 1 Sam. ix. 5, 22; Jonathan and his servant, 1 Sam. xiv. 1-14, and Elisha and his servant, are illustrations.
No such tie seems to have existed between hired servants and their masters. Their untrustworthiness was proverbial. John ix. 12, 13. None but the lowest class engaged as hired servants, and the kinds of labor assigned to them required little knowledge and skill. Various passages show the low repute and trifling character of the class from which they were hired. Judg. ix. 4; 1 Sam ii. 5. The superior condition of bought servants is manifest in the high trusts confided to them, and in their dignity and authority in the household. In no instance is a hired servant thus distinguished.
The bought servant is manifestly the master's representative in the family — with plenipotentiary powers over adult children, even negotiating marriage for them. Abraham adjured his servant, not to take a wife for Isaac of the daughters of the Canaanites. The servant himself selected the individual. Servants also exercised discretionary power in the management of their masters' estates, "And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, for all the goods of his master were under his hand." Gen. xxiv. 10. The reason assigned for taking them, is not that such was Abraham's direction, but that the servant had discretionary control. Servants had also discretionary power in the disposal of property. See Gen. xxiv. 22, 23, 53. The condition of Ziba in the house of Mephibosheth, is a case in point. So is Prov. xvii. 2.
Distinct traces of this estimation are to be found in the New Testament, Matt. xxiv. 45; Luke xii. 42, 44 . So in the parable of the talents; the master seems to have set up each of his servants in trade with a large capital. The unjust steward had large discretionary power, was "accused of wasting his master's goods," and manifestly regulated with his debtors, the terms of settlement. Luke xvi. 4, 8. Such trusts were never reposed in hired servants.
The inferior condition of hired servants, is illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son [Luke 15:11-24]. When the prodigal, perishing with hunger among the swine and husks, came to himself, his proud heart broke; “I will arise,” he cried, “and go to my father.” And then to assure his father of the depth of his humility, resolved to add, “Make me as one of thy hired servants.” If hired servants were the superior class—to apply for the situation, savored little of that sense of unworthiness that seeks the dust with hidden face, and cries “unclean.” Unhumbled nature climbs; or if it falls, clings fast, where first it may. Humility sinks of its own weight, and in the lowest deep, digs lower.
The design of the parable was to illustrate on the one hand, the joy of God, as he beholds afar off, the returning sinner “seeking an injured father's face” who runs to clasp and bless him with an unchiding welcome; and on the other, the contrition of the penitent, turning homeward with tears from his wanderings, his stricken spirit breaking with its ill-desert he sobs aloud, “The lowest place, the lowest place, I can abide no other.” Or in those inimitable words, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy HIRED servants.” The supposition that hired servants were the highest class, takes from the parable an element of winning beauty and pathos.
It is manifest to every careful student of the Bible, that one class of servants, was on terms of equality with the children and other members of the family. (Hence the force of Paul's declaration, Gal. iv. 1, “Now I say unto you, that the heir, so long as he is a child, DIFFERETH NOTHING FROM A SERVANT, though he be lord of all.”)
If this were the hired class, the prodigal was a sorry specimen of humility. Would our Lord have put such language upon the lips of one held up by himself, as a model of gospel humility, to illustrate its deep sense of all ill-desert? If this is humility, put it on stilts, and set it a strutting, while pride takes lessons, and blunders in aping it.
Israelites and Strangers, belonged indiscriminately to each class of the servants, the bought and the hired. That those in the former class, whether Jews or Strangers, rose to honors and authority in the family circle, which were not conferred on hired servants, has been shown.
It should be added, however, that in the enjoyment of privileges, merely political, the hired servants from the Israelites, were more favored than even the bought servants from the Strangers. No one from the Strangers, however wealthy or highly endowed, was eligible to the highest office, nor could he own the soil. This last disability seems to have been one reason for the different periods of service required of the two classes of bought servants—the Israelites and the Strangers. The Israelite was to serve six years—the Stranger until the jubilee.
As the Strangers could not own the soil, nor even houses, except within walled towns, most would attach themselves to Israelitish families. Those who were wealthy, or skilled in manufactures, instead of becoming servants would need servants for their own use, and as inducements for the Strangers to become servants to the Israelites, were greater than persons of their own nation could hold out to them, these wealthy Strangers would naturally procure the poorer Israelites for servants. Lev. xxv. 47.
In a word, such was the political condition of the Strangers, that the Jewish polity offered a virtual bounty, to such as would become permanent servants, and thus secure those privileges already enumerated, and for their children in the second generation a permanent inheritance. Ezek. xlvii. 21-23. None but the monied aristocracy would be likely to decline such offers.
On the other hand,
the Israelites, owning all the soil, and an inheritance of land
being a sacred possession, to hold it free of encumbrance was with every
Israelite, a delicate point, both of family honor and personal character. 1 Kings
xxi. 3. Hence, to forego the control of one's inheritance,
after the division of the paternal domain, or to be kept out of it after
having acceded to it, was a burden grievous to be borne. To mitigate as
much as possible such a calamity, the law released the Israelitish servant
at the end of six years;*
* Another reason for protracting the service until the seventh year, seems to have been the coincidence of that period with other arrangements, in the Jewish economy. Its pecuniary responsibilities, social relations, and general internal structure, were graduated upon a septennial scale. Besides as those Israelites who became servants through poverty, would not sell themselves, till other expedients to recruit their finances had failed—(Lev. xxv. 35)—their becoming servants proclaimed such a state of their affairs, as demanded the labor of a course of years fully to reinstate them.
as, during that time—if of the first class—the partition of the patrimonial land might have taken place; or, if of the second, enough money might have been earned to disencumber his estate, and thus he might assume his station as a lord of the soil. If neither contingency had occurred, then after another six years the opportunity was again offered, and so on, until the jubilee. So while strong motives urged the Israelite to discontinue his service as soon as the exigency had passed which made him a servant, every consideration impelled the Stranger to prolong his term of service; and the same kindness which dictated the law of six years' service for the Israelite, assigned as the general rule, a much longer period to the Gentile servant, who had every inducement to protract the term.
It should be borne in mind, that adult Jews ordinarily became servants, only as a temporary expedient to relieve themselves from embarrassment, and ceased to be such when that object was effected. The poverty that forced them to it was a calamity, and their service was either a means of relief, or a measure of prevention; not pursued as a permanent business, but resorted to on emergencies—a sort of episode in the main scope of their lives. Whereas with the Strangers, it was a permanent employment, pursued both as a means of bettering their own condition, and that of their posterity, and as an end for its own sake, conferring on them privileges, and a social estimation not otherwise attainable.
We see from the foregoing, why servants purchased from the heathen, are called by way of distinction, the servants (not bondmen), (1.) They followed it as a permanent business. (2.) Their term of service was much longer than that of the other class. (3.) As a class, they doubtless greatly outnumbered the Israelitish servants.
(4.) All the strangers that dwelt in the land were tributaries, required to pay an annual tax to the government, either in money, or in public service, (called a "tribute of bond-service"); in other words, all the Strangers were national servants, to the Israelites, and the same Hebrew word used to designate individual servants, equally designates national servants or tributaries. 2 Sam. viii. 2, 6, 14. 2 Chron. viii. 7-9. Deut. xx. 14. 2 Sam. x. 19. 1 Kings ix. 21, 22.1 Kings iv. 21. Gen. xxvii. 29. The same word is applied to the Israelites, when they paid tribute to other nations. 2 Kings xvii. 3. Judg. iii. 8, 14. Gen. xlix. 15.
Another distinction between the Jewish and Gentile bought servants, was in their kinds of service. The servants from the Strangers were properly the domestics, or household servants, employed in all family work, in offices of personal attendance, and in such mechanical labor, as was required by increasing wants, and needed repairs.
The Jewish bought servants seem almost exclusively agricultural. Besides being better fitted for it by previous habits—agriculture, and the tending of cattle, were regarded by the Israelites as the most honorable of all occupations. After Saul was elected king, and escorted to Gibeah, the next report of him is, "And behold Saul came after the herd out of the field." 1 Sam. xi. 7. Elisha "was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen." 1 Kings xix. 19. King Uzziah "loved husbandry." 2 Chron. xxvi. 10. Gideon was "threshing wheat" when called to lead the host against the Midianites. Judg. vi. 11. The superior honorableness of agriculture, is shown, in that it was protected and supported by the fundamental law of the theocracy—God indicating it as the chief prop of the government.
The Israelites were like permanent fixtures on their soil, so did they cling to it. To be agriculturists on their own inheritances, was with them the grand claim to honorable estimation. Agriculture being pre-eminently a Jewish employment, to assign a native Israelite to other employments as a business, was to break up his habits, do violence to cherished predilections, and put him to a kind of labor in which he had no skill, and which he deemed degrading.
In short, it was in the earlier ages of
the Mosaic system, practically to unjew him, a hardship and rigor grievous to be borne,
as it annihilated a visible distinction between the descendants of Abraham
and the Strangers.— To guard this and another fundamental distinction, God
instituted the regulation which stands at the head of this branch of our
inquiry, “If thy brother that dwelleth by thee be
waxen poor, and be sold unto thee, thou shalt not compel him to serve as a
bond-servant.” [Leviticus 25:39].
In other words, thou shalt not put him to servant's work—to the business, and into the condition of domestics. In the Persian version it is translated thus, “Thou shalt not assign to him the work of servitude.” In the Septuagint, “He shall not serve thee with the service of a domestic.” In the Syriac, “Thou shalt not employ him after the manner of servants.” In the Samaritan, “Thou shalt not require him to serve in the service of a servant.” In the Targum of Onkelos, “He shall not serve thee with the service of a household servant.”
In the Targum of Jonathan,
“Thou shalt not cause him to serve according to the usages of the
servitude of servants.”*
* Jarchi's comment on “Thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bond-servant” is, “The Hebrew servant is not to be required to do any thing which is accounted degrading—such as all offices of personal attendance, as loosing his master's shoe-latchet, bringing him water to wash his feet and hands, waiting on him at table, dressing him, carrying things to and from the bath. The Hebrew servant is to work with his master as a son or brother, in the business of his farm, or other labor, until his legal release.”
The meaning of the passage is, thou shalt not assign him to the same grade, nor put him to the same service, with permanent domestics. The remainder of the regulation is,— “But as an hired servant and as a sojourner shall he be with thee.” Hired servants were not incorporated into the families of their masters; they still retained their own family organization, without the surrender of any domestic privilege, honor, or authority; and this, even though they resided under the same roof with their master.
While bought servants were associated with their master's families at meals, at the Passover, and at other family festivals, hired servants and sojourners were not. Ex. xii. 44, 45; Lev. xxii. 10, 11. Hired servants were not subject to the authority of their masters in any such sense as the master's wife, children, and bought servants. Hence the only form of oppressing hired servants spoken of in the Scriptures as practicable to masters, is that of keeping back their wages.
To have taken away such privileges in the case under consideration, would have been pre-eminent “rigor;” for it was not a servant born in the house of a master, nor a minor, whose minority had been sold by the father, neither was it one who had not yet acceded to his inheritance; nor, finally, one who had received the assignment of his inheritance, but was working off from it an encumbrance, before entering upon its possession and control. But it was that of the head of a family, who had known better days, now reduced to poverty, forced to relinquish the loved inheritance of his fathers, with the competence and respectful consideration its possession secured to him, and to be indebted to a neighbor for shelter, sustenance and employment.
So sad a reverse, might well claim sympathy; but one consolation cheers him in the house of his pilgrimage; he is an Israelite—Abraham is his father, and now in his calamity he clings closer than ever, to the distinction conferred by his birth-right. To rob him of this, were “the unkindest cut of all.” To have assigned him to a grade of service filled only by those whose permanent business was serving, would have been to “rule over him with” peculiar “rigor.” “Thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bond-servant,” or literally, thou shalt not serve thyself with him, with the service of a servant, guaranties his political privileges, and a kind and grade of service. comporting with his character and relations as an Israelite.
And “as a hired servant, and as a sojourner shall he be with thee,” secures to him his family organization, the respect and authority due to its head, and the general consideration resulting from such a station. Being already in possession of his inheritance, and the head of a household, the law so arranged the conditions of his service as to alleviate as much as possible the calamity which had reduced him from independence and authority, to penury and subjection. The import of the command which concludes this topic in the forty-third verse, (“Thou shalt not rule over him with rigor,”) is manifestly this, you shall not disregard those differences in previous associations, station, authority, and political privileges, upon which this regulation is based; for to hold this class of servants irrespective of these distinctions, and annihilating them, is to “rule with rigor.”
The same command is repeated in the forty-sixth verse, and applied to the distinction between servants of Jewish, and those of Gentile extraction, and forbids the overlooking of distinctive Jewish peculiarities, the disregard of which would be rigorous in the extreme.*
* The disabilities of the Strangers, which were distinctions, based on a different national descent, and important to the preservation of national characteristics, and a national worship, did not at all affect their social estimation. They were regarded according to their character. and worth as persons, irrespective of their foreign origin, employment, and political condition.
The construction commonly put upon the phrase “rule with rigor,” and the inference drawn from it, have an air vastly oracular. It is interpreted to mean, “you shall not make him a chattel, and strip him of legal protection, nor force him to work without pay.” The inference is like unto it, viz., since the command forbade such outrages upon the Israelites, it permitted and commissioned their infliction upon the Strangers. Such impious and shallow smattering captivates scoffers and libertines; its flippancy and blasphemy, and the strong scent of its loose-reined license, works like a charm upon them. What boots it to reason against such rampant affinities! In Ex. i. 13, it is said that the Egyptians “made the children of Israel to serve with rigor.” This rigor is affirmed of the amount of labor extorted and the mode of the exaction.
The expression, “serve with rigor,” is never applied to the service of servants under the Mosaic system. The phrase, “thou shalt not RULE over him with rigor,” does not prohibit unreasonable exactions of labor, nor inflictions of cruelty. Such were provided against otherwise. But it forbids confounding the distinctions between a Jew and a Stranger, by assigning the former to the same grade of service, for the same term of time, and under the same political disabilities as the latter.
We are now
prepared to review at a glance, the condition of the different classes of servants,
with the modifications peculiar to each class. In the possession of all
fundamental rights, all classes of servants were on an absolute equality, all were
equally protected by law in their persons, character, property and social
all were voluntary, all were compensated for their labor, and released from it nearly one half of the days in each year; all were furnished with stated instruction; none in either class were in any sense articles of property; all were regarded as men, with the rights, interests, hopes, and destinies of men.
In all these respects, all classes of servants among the Israelites, formed but ONE CLASS. The different classes, and the differences in each class, were, (1.) Hired Servants. This class consisted both of Israelites and Strangers. Their employments were different. The Israelite was an agricultural servant. The Stranger was a domestic and personal servant, and in some instances mechanical; both were occasional and temporary. Both lived in their own families, their wages were money, and they were paid when their work was done.
(2.) Bought Servants, (including those
“born in the house”). This class also, consisted of Israelites and
Strangers, the same difference in their kinds of
employment as noticed before. Both were paid in advance,* and neither was temporary.
* The payment in advance, doubtless lessened the price of the purchase; the servant thus having the use of the money, and the master assuming all the risks of life, and health for labor; at the expiration of the six year's contract, the master having suffered no loss from the risk incurred at the making of it, was obliged by law to release the servant with a liberal gratuity. The reason assigned for this is, “he hath been worth a double hired servant unto thee in serving thee six years;” as if it had been said, as you have experienced no loss from the risks of life, and ability to labor, incurred in the purchase, and which lessened the price, and as, by being your servant for six years, he has saved you the time and trouble of looking up and hiring laborers on emergencies, therefore, “thou shalt furnish him liberally,” &c. [Deuteronomy 15:14].
The Israelitish servant, with the exception of the freeholder, was released after six years. The Stranger was a permanent servant, continuing until the jubilee. [Leviticus 25:9-10]. A marked distinction obtained also between different classes of Jewish bought servants. Ordinarily, they were merged in their master's family, and, like his wife and children, subject to his authority; (and, like them, protected by law from its abuse). But the freeholder was a marked exception; his family relations, and authority remained unaffected, nor was he subjected as an inferior to the control of his master, though dependent on him for employment.
It should be kept in mind, that both classes of servants, the Israelite and the Stranger, not only enjoyed equal natural and religious rights, but all the civil and political privileges enjoyed by those of their own people who were not servants. They also shared in common with them the political disabilities which appertained to all Strangers, whether the servants of Jewish masters, or the masters of Jewish servants.
Further, the disabilities of the servants from the Strangers were exclusively political and national. (1.) They, in common with all Strangers, could not own the soil. (2.) They were ineligible to civil offices. (3.) They were assigned to employments less honorable than those in which Israelitsh servants engaged; agriculture being regarded as fundamental to the existence of the state, other employments were in less repute, and deemed unjewish.
Finally, the Strangers, whether servants or masters, were all protected equally with the descendants of Abraham. In respect to political privileges, their condition was much like that of unnaturalized foreigners in the United States; whatever their wealth or intelligence, or moral principle, or love for our institutions, they can neither go to the ballot-box, nor own the soil, nor be eligible to office. Let a native American, be suddenly bereft of these privileges, and loaded with the disabilities of an alien, and what to the foreigner would be a light matter, to him, would be the severity of rigor.
The recent condition of the Jews and Catholics in England, is another illustration. Rothschild, the late banker, though the richest private citizen in the world, and perhaps master of a score of English servants, who sued for the smallest crumbs of his favor, was, as a subject of the government, inferior to the lowest among them. Suppose an Englishman of the Established Church, were by law deprived of power to own the soil, of eligibility to office and of the electoral franchise, would Englishmen think it a misapplication of language, if it were said, the government “rules over him with rigor.” And yet his person, property, reputation, conscience, all his social relations, the disposal of his time, the right of locomotion at pleasure, and of natural liberty in all respects, are as much protected by law as the Lord Chancellor's.
FINALLY,— As the Mosaic System was a great compound type, ripe with meaning in doctrine and duty; the practical power of the whole, depended upon the exact observance of those distinctions and relations which constituted its significancy. Hence, the care to preserve inviolate the distinction between a descendant of Abraham and a Stranger, even when the Stranger was a proselyte, had gone through the initiatory ordinances, entered the congregation, and become incorporated with the Israelites by family alliance.
The regulation laid down in Ex. xxi. 2-6, is an illustration. In this case, the Israelitish servant, whose term expired in six years, married one of his master's permanent female domestics; but her marriage, did not release her master from his part of the contract for her whole term of service, nor from his legal obligation to support and educate her children.
Neither did it do away that distinction, which marked her national descent by a specific grade and term of service, nor impair her obligation to fulfill her part of the contract. Her relations as a permanent domestic grew out of a distinction guarded with great care throughout the Mosaic system. To render it void, would have been to divide the system against itself. This God would not tolerate. Nor, on the other hand, would he permit the master, to throw off the responsibility of instructing her children, nor the care and expense of their helpless infancy and rearing. He was bound to support and educate them, and all her children born afterwards during her term of service. The whole arrangement beautifully illustrates that wise and tender regard for the interests of all the parties concerned, which arrays the Mosaic system in robes of glory, and causes it to shine as the sun in the kingdom of our Father.
By this law, the children had secured to them a mother's tender care. If the husband loved his wife and children, he could compel his master to keep him, whether he had any occasion for his services or not. If he did not love them, to be rid of him was a blessing; and in that case, the regulation would prove an act for the relief of an afflicted family.
It is not by any means to be inferred, that the release of the servant in the seventh year, either absolved him from the obligations of marriage, or shut him out from the society of his family. He could doubtless procure a service at no great distance from them, and might often do it, to get higher wages, or a kind of employment better suited to his taste and skill.
The great number of days
on which the law released servants from regular labor, would enable him to spend much more time
with his family, than can be spent by most of the agents of our benevolent
societies with their families, or by many merchants, editors,
artists, &c., whose daily business is in New York, while their
families reside from ten to one hundred miles in the country.
We conclude this Inquiry by touching briefly upon an objection, which, though not formally stated, has been already set aside by the whole tenor of the foregoing argument. It is this,—“The slavery of the Canaanites by the Israelites, was appointed by God as a commutation of the punishment of death denounced against them for their sins.” If the absurdity of a sentence consigning persons to death, and at the same time to perpetual slavery, did not sufficiently laugh at itself, it would be small self-denial, in a case so tempting, to make up the deficiency by a general contribution. For, be it remembered, only one statute was ever given respecting the disposition to be made of the inhabitants of Canaan. If the sentence of death was pronounced against them, and afterwards commuted, when? where? by whom? and in what terms was the commutation, and where is it recorded?
Grant, for argument's sake, that all the Canaanites were sentenced to unconditional extermination; as there was no reversal of the sentence, how can a right to enslave them, be drawn from such premises? The punishment of death is one of the highest recognitions of man's moral nature possible. It proclaims him man—rational, accountable, guilty, deserving death for having done his utmost to cheapen human life, when the proof of its priceless worth lived in his own nature.
But to make him a slave, cheapens to nothing universal human nature, and instead of healing a wound, gives a death-stab. What! repair an injury to rational being in the robbery of one of its rights, by robbing it of all, and annihilating their foundation—the everlasting distinction between persons and things? To make a man a chattel, is not the punishment, but the annihilation of a human being, and, so far as it goes, of all human beings.
This commutation of the punishment of death, into perpetual slavery, what a fortunate discovery! Alas! for the honor of Deity, if commentators had not manned the forlorn hope, and by a timely movement rescued the Divine character, at the very crisis of its fate, from the perilous position in which inspiration had carelessly left it! Here a question arises of sufficient importance for a separate dissertation; but must for the present be disposed of in a few paragraphs. WERE THE CANAANITES SENTENCED BY GOD TO INDIVIDUAL AND UNCONDITIONAL EXTERMINATION?
As the limits of this inquiry forbid our giving all the grounds of dissent from commonly received opinions, the suggestions made, will be thrown out merely as QUERIES, rather than laid down as doctrines. The directions as to the disposal of the Canaanites, are mainly in the following passages, Ex. xxiii. 23-33; xxxiv. 11. Deut. vii. 16-25; ix. 3; xxxi. 3-5. In these verses, the Israelites are commanded to “destroy the Canaanites” “drive out,” “consume,” “utterly overthrow,” “put out,” “dispossess them,” &c.
Did these commands enjoin the unconditional and universal destruction of the individuals, or merely of the body politic? The word haram, to destroy, signifies national, as well as individual destruction; the destruction of political existence, equally with personal; of governmental organization, equally with the lives of the subjects.
Besides, if we interpret the words destroy, consume, overthrow, &c., to mean personal destruction, what meaning shall we give to the expressions, “drive out before thee,” “cast out before thee,” “expel,” “put out,” “dispossess,” &c., which are used in the same passages? “I will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee.” Ex. xxiii. 27.
Here “all their enemies” were to turn their backs, and “all the people” to be “destroyed.” Does this mean that God would let all their enemies escape, but kill all their friends, or that he would first kill “all the people” and THEN make them “turn their backs,” an army of runaway corpses? If these commands required the destruction of all the individuals, the Mosaic law was at war with itself; for directions as to the treatment of native residents, form a large part of it. See Lev. xix. 34; xxv. 35, 36; xx. 22. Ex. xxiii. 9; xxii. 21. Deut. i. 16, 17; x. 17, 19; xxvii. 19.
We find, also that provision was made for them in the cities of refuge, Num. xxxv. 15.—the gleanings of the harvest and vintage were theirs, Lev. xix. 9, 10; xxiii. 22;—the blessings of the Sabbath, Ex. xx. 10;—the privilege of offering sacrifices secured, Lev. xxii. 18; and stated religious instruction provided for them. Deut. xxxi. 9, 12. Now does this same law require the individual extermination of those whose lives and interests it thus protects? These laws were given to the Israelites, long before they entered Canaan; and they must have inferred from them, that a multitude of the inhabitants of the land were to continue in it, under their government.
Again, Joshua was selected as the leader of Israel to execute God's threatenings upon Canaan. He had no discretionary power. God's commands were his official instructions. Going beyond them would have been usurpation; refusing to carry them out rebellion and treason. Saul was rejected from being king for disobeying God's commands in a single instance. [1 Samuel 15:23.]
Now, if God commanded the individual destruction of all the Canaanites Joshua disobeyed him in every instance. For at his death, the Israelites still “dwelt among them,” and each nation is mentioned by name. Judg. i. 5, and yet we are told that Joshua “left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses;” and that he “took all that land.” Josh. xi. 15-22. Also, that “there stood not a man of all their enemies before them.” [Josh. xxi. 44.] How can this be, if the command to destroy enjoined individual extermination, and the command to drive out, unconditional expulsion from the country, rather than their expulsion from the possession or ownership of it, as the lords of the soil?
True, multitudes of the Canaanites were slain, but not a case
can be found in which one was either killed or expelled who acquiesced in
the transfer of the territory, and its sovereignty, from the inhabitants of
the land to the Israelites. Witness the case of Rahab and her kindred, and the Gibeonites.*
* Perhaps it will be objected, that the preservation of the Gibeonites, and of Rahab and her kindred, was a violation of the command of God. We answer, if it had been, we might expect some such intimation. If God had straitly commanded them to exterminate all the Canaanites, their pledge to save them alive, was neither a repeal of the statute, nor absolution for the breach of it. If unconditional destruction was the import of the command, would God have permitted such an act to pass without rebuke? Would he have established such a precedent when Israel had hardly passed the threshold of Canaan, and was then striking the first blow of a half century war? What if they had passed their word to Rahab and the Gibeonites? Was that more binding than God's command? So Saul seems to have passed his word to Agag; yet Samuel hewed him in pieces, because in saving his life, Saul had violated God's command. When Saul sought to slay the Gibeonites in “his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah,” God sent upon Israel a three years' famine for it. When David inquired of them what atonement he should make, they say, “The man that devised against us, that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the coasts of Israel, let seven of his sons be delivered,” &c. 2 Sam. xxi. 1-6.
The Canaanites knew of the miracles wrought for the Israelites; and that their land had been transferred to them as a judgment for their sins. Josh. ii. 9-11; ix. 9, 10, 24. Many of them were awed by these wonders, and made no resistance. Others defied God came out to battle. These occupied the fortified cities, were the most inveterate heathen—the aristocracy of idolatry, the kings, the nobility and gentry, the priests, with their crowds of satellites, and retainers that aided in idolatrous rites, and the military forces, with the chief profligates of both sexes.
Many facts corroborate the general position. Such as the multitudes of tributaries in the midst of Israel,
and that too, after they had “waxed strong,” and the
uttermost nations quaked at the terror of their name—the Canaanites,
Philistines and others, who became proselytes—as the Nethenims, Uriah the
Hittite—Rahab, who married one of the princes of Judah—Ittai—the six hundred Gittites—David's body guard. 2 Sam. xv. 18, 21. Obededom the
Gittite, adopted into the tribe of Levi. Comp. 2 Sam. vi. 10, 11, with 1
Chron. xv. 18, and 1 Chron. xxvi. 45—Jaziz, and Obil. 1 Chron. xxvii.
30, 31, 33. Jephunneh the father of Caleb, the Kenite, registered in
the genealogies of the tribe of Judah, and
the one hundred and fifty thousand Canaanites, employed by Solomon in the
building of the Temple.*
* If the Canaanites were devoted by God to unconditional extermination, to have employed them in the erection of the temple,— what was it but the climax of impiety? As well might they pollute its altars with swine's flesh, or make their sons pass through the fire to Moloch.
Besides, the greatest miracle on record, was wrought to save a portion of those very Canaanites, and for the destruction of those who would exterminate them. Josh. x. 12-14. Further—the terms employed in the directions regulating the disposal of the Canaanites, such as, “drive out,” “put out,” “cast out,” “expel,” “dispossess,” &c. seem used interchangeably with “consume,” “destroy,” “overthrow,” &c., and thus indicate the sense in which the latter words are used.
As an illustration of the meaning generally attached to these and similar terms, we refer to the history of the Amalekites. “I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” Ex. xxvii. 14. “Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it.” Deut. xxv. 19. “Smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep.” 1 Sam. xv. 2, 3. “Saul smote the Amalekites, and he took Agag the king of the Amalekites, alive and UTTERLY DESTROYED ALL THE PEOPLE with the edge of the sword." Verses 7, 8. In verse 20, Saul says, “I have brought Agag, the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites." In 1 Sam. xxx. we find the Amalekites marching an army into Israel, and sweeping every thing before them—and this in about eighteen years after they had all been "UTTERLY DESTROYED!"
Deut. xx. 16, 17, will probably be quoted against the preceding view. We argue that the command in these verses, did not include all the individuals of the Canaanitish nations, but only the inhabitants of the cities, (and even those conditionally), because, only the inhabitants of cities are specified,—"of the cities of these people thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth."
Cities then, as now, were pest-houses of vice—they reeked with abominations little practised in the country. On this account their influence would be far more perilous to the Israelites than that of the country. Besides, they were the centers of idolatry—there were the temples and altars, and idols, and priests, without number. Even their buildings, streets, and public walks were so many visibilities of idolatry.
The reason assigned in the 18th verse for exterminating them, strengthens the idea,—"that they teach you not to do after all the abominations which they have done unto their gods." This would be a reason for exterminating all the nations and individuals around them, as all were idolaters; but God commanded them, in certain cases, to spare the inhabitants. Contact with any of them would be perilous—with the inhabitants of the cities peculiarly, and of the Canaanitish cities pre-eminently so.
The 10th and 11th verses contain the general rule prescribing the method in which cities were to be summoned to surrender. They were first to receive the offer of peace—if it was accepted, the inhabitants became tributaries—but if they came out against Israel in battle, the men were to be killed, and the women and little ones saved alive. The 15th verse restricts this lenient treatment to the inhabitants of the cities afar off. The 16th directs as to the disposal of the inhabitants of the Canaanitish cities. They were to save alive "nothing that breathed."
The common mistake has been, in supposing that the command in the 15th verse refers to the whole system of directions preceding, commencing with the 10th, whereas it manifestly refers only to the inflictions specified in the 12th, 13th, and 14th, making a distinction between those Canaanitish cities that fought, and the cities afar off that fought—in one case destroying the males and females, and in the other, the males only.
The offer of peace, and the conditional preservation, were as really guarantied to Canaanitish cities as to others. Their inhabitants were not to be exterminated unless they came out against Israel in battle. But let us settle this question by the "law and the testimony." [Isaiah 8:20.] "There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel save the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon; all others they took in battle. For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should COME OUT AGAINST ISRAEL IN BATTLE, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favor, but that he might destroy them, as the Lord commanded Moses." Josh. xi. 19, 20.
That is, if they had not come out against Israel in battle, they would have had "favor" shown them, and would not have been "destroyed utterly." The great design was to transfer the territory of the Canaanites to the Israelites, and along with it, absolute sovereignty in every respect; to annihilate their political organizations, civil polity, and jurisprudence, and their systems of religion, with all its rights and appendages; and to substitute therefor, a pure theocracy, administered by Jehovah, with the Israelites as His representatives and agents. In a word the people were to be denationalized, their political existence annihilated, their idol temples, altars, images, groves, and heathen rites destroyed, and themselves put under tribute. Those who resisted the execution of Jehovah's purpose were to be killed, while those who submitted to it were to be spared.
All had the choice of these alternatives, either free egress out of the land;* or acquiescence in the decree, with life and residence as tributaries, under the protection of the government; or resistance to the execution of the decree, with death.
* Suppose all the Canaanitish nations had abandoned their territory at the tidings of Israel's approach, did God's command require the Israelites to chase them to ends of the earth, and hunt them out, until every Canaanite was destroyed? It is too preposterous for belief; and yet it follows legitimately from that construction, which interprets the terms "consume," "destroy," "destroy utterly," &c. to mean unconditional, individual extermination.
"And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, the Lord liveth, as they taught my people to swear by Baal; THEN SHALL THEY BE BUILT IN THE MIDST OF MY PEOPLE."
[The original design of the preceding Inquiry embraced a much wider range of topics. It was soon found, however, that to fill up the outline would be to make a volume. Much of the foregoing has therefore been thrown into a mere series of indices, to trains of thought and classes of proof, which, however limited or imperfect, may perhaps, afford some facilities to those who have little leisure for protracted investigation.]