Answering Fools – Part 2 / Contestants – Define your terms!

Walk in Wisdom – Gleanings from Scripture
From: Prov. 26.4-5 Part 2 – Answering Fools

Previously we began a short series on Prov. 26.4-5 in the context of answering a
letter circulated on the internet, purporting to be questioning President Bush on
how to rightly apply Scripture to current issues. Their first question reveals how
firmly their tongue is planted in their cheek as they ask: “1. Lev. 25.44 states
that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased
from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans
but not to Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?”

To which we reply: Your question betrays a certain number of presuppositions
which need to be looked at first, and then some inaccuracies in your
understanding of Scripture. I take it by the nature of your question that you
assume all “slavery” is inherently wrong, regardless of what actually may be the
reality of that slavery. Perhaps you are equating the Levitical laws with the kind
of slavery practiced in the antebellum United States. This is a very common, and
a very great error. You see, the text of Lev. 25 intimates that the Israelites
could only purchase as “slaves”, those who chose to remain within Israel’s
borders after their conquest of Canaan (a conquest ordered by God as
punishment for the sins of those peoples hundreds of years in the making – see:
Gen. 15:16). None were forced to remain. And if they did, there were rules
whereby they could co-exist peacefully. And the ways they became these slaves
were either due to financial hardship, or as prisoners of war. But since Israel
had no jails, no place to house or incarcerate such prisoners, they were brought
into society by means of slavery. Conscripted service was used in lieu of jails.
But what was the lot of these slaves? Well, they were allowed to own property,
and even grow rich (see: Lev. 47-49, you didn’t read far enough); they had
protection under the law from cruelty and had recourse under the law in legal
matters; they were not allowed to be forced to work on the Sabbath, but were
required to have the Sabbath’s rest as much as their masters; they had to
receive their wages in a timely fashion; they had to have their material needs
provided for; they were allowed to marry, have children and if their servitude
was due to financial hardship, to end their slavery upon satisfaction of the debt.
If a slave ran away, he was not to be returned to his owner. The implication
being something must be wrong if they ran. Human dignity and respect were
required by law. Kidnapping for the purpose of slavery (or any other reason for
that fact) required the death penalty. They could not be captured and sold as
was the case with the abomination of African-American slavery. No, you cannot
go and buy or capture Canadian or Mexican slaves, but you CAN employ them
and treat them fairly and equitably.


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