Month 10:13, Week 2:5 (Chamashee/Teruah), Year 5935:271 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Friday 6 January 2012
Kidnapping & Slavery I
Yahweh's Realm vs. the World
Continued in Part 2
A person who kidnaps another, male or female, adult or child, with a view to selling him to another or who retains him for the purpose of making a profit out of him through labour, prostitution or any other activity, is, according to Yahweh's Torah, under a death-sentence. Even if he seizes him and doesn't mistreat him, it's still a crime. Kidnapping for profit and/or slavery is an abomination in the eyes of El Elyon, the Most High.
"He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death" (Ex.21:16, NKJV).
According to one statistic I have seen, there are over 12 million people in the world who have been abducted and turned into slaves. I suspect the figure is a lot higher, possibly by several orders of magnitude. Muslim countries in particular are notorious for this nefarious system of oppression (just go to the Sudan or Mauretania, to give but two examples) but they are by no means alone. Any government which claims to own its citizens and treats them as property of the state, robs them of money or abducts their children, or meddles in family affairs, is guilty of the sin of kidnapping and slavery, albeit in a roundabout sort of way. And anyone involved in this human trafficking ought to fear for their prospects in the eternities.
When in the West we think of 'slavery' our minds naturally turn to those Africans who were violently stolen and shipped abroad under horrific conditions as forced labour in pepetuity, who could be sold, along with their children, at whim. This was often rationalised because of different skin colour and because those of African descent were regarded as inferior, whether by the white slave traffickers of the West or the Arab slave trafickers of the north. Today white slave trafficking by other or the races is not uncommon. It really doesn't matter what the skin colour is as the fact that another human being was seized against their will.
The Hebrews themselves knew what it was like to be enslaved, and more than once, first by the Egyptians, then by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and others. They were slaves, not by choice but because (in the case of Egypt) they were despised herders who belonged to a different race (Ex.13:14). You only have to read Exodus 7-11 to discover what Yahweh actually feels about slavery and what He is prepared to do on behalf of any people who will yield themselves fully and unreservedly into His care, even if done imperfectly.
The Bible is criticised by atheists and others because it seems to condone slavery itself. That is not strictly-speaking true. The Bible, as we have seen, is strictly against abduction and racism. It is against anyone being brought into servitude against his will or for no just cause.
However, the Torah does permit someone to sell himself into indentured service, usually because he is in debt or can't take care of his family, and is in no position to pay it off, for whatever reason.
In today's society we put someone into prison at the expense of the tax payer, and the one who has been robbed rarely, if at all, receives compenstion for his loss, hardly a fair system. In Yahweh's system a person who gets into debt can voluntarily put himself under indentured service until he has paid his debt. And a thief has to pay back what he has stolen, plus a fixed extra portion or indemnity, and if he can't, he is obliged to place himself into indentured service to the one he has robbed. As soon as he has paid his debt off, he is released. Can you be more just than that? This is, in my view, far superior to the system in operation today in the world system where taxpayers - citizens - end up paying for criminals' crimes, and not the criminals themsselves. Indeed, when Israel lived according to Torah correctly, there were no prisons at all because Israel's system of justice had no need of them. The world system, to my way of thinking, is a kind of slavery in and of itself, since we are forced - against our will - to finance criminals' punishments in a system that shows next to zero rehabilitation success and which usually churns out worse, more hardened, criminals. Let's face it, our penal system just doesn't work, and it's very expensive, even in liberal, humanistic Scandinavia where criminals are treated to hôtel-like service and live better than half the world's population.
The Scriptures categorically state that anyone involved in kidnapping of any kind will not go to heaven:
Those who place themselves in indentured service cannot be treated in whatever way a master wants to - he is not 'personal property' in the sense that a car or piece of furniture is, but is only temporarily in the master' service until justice is done and the debt paid off. Our governments have more rights to abuse us than Hebrew masters did anciently! As Christians/Messianics, we have been given a special code to follow in these circumstances:
"But we know that the Torah (Law) is tov (good) if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the Torah (Law) is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious besorah (gospel) of the blessed Elohim (God) which was committed to my trust" (1 Tim.1:8-11, NKJV).
In other words, you can't hang on to anyone for more than seven years! You are, moreover, to generously endow him with material goods to help him get started again when you release him!
"If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what Yahweh has blessed you with, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Yahweh your Elohim (God) redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today" (Deut.15:12-15, NKJV).
This is why we must be very careful not to read into the biblical text customs and practices from other cultures that practice, or have practiced, what we call 'slavery'. Thus there is no way you can compare black slavery with biblical indentured service - they are two totally different things. Moreover, the Hebrew system had no regard to station or rank - it wasn't just for the 'lower classes' or peasants - for in New Testament times, as is known from historical records, sometimes doctors, lawyers and even politicians were the personal servants or slaves of someone else.
In that respect, things haven't changed much for these classes of citizen are veritably the slaves of the totalitarian governments or corporate or bankster overlords they serve under in our mdoern world. Thus in contemporary Sweden, a doctor working for the state can be imprisoned for refusing to carry out an abortion becauase his religion or conscience will not permit him to, and doubtless the same is true elsewhere in some other countries. The doctor is a slave of those who claim to be the 'state', is he/she not? He does not have liberty in this area. And this oppression is done in the name of 'democracy', meaning some totalitarian-minded people have voted to oppress some of their citizens.
The B'rit Chadashah Scriptures (New Testament) are more concerned about right attitudes than they are about politics. Given we are all, in reality, slaves of someone, and that whilst sometimes we can, and should, campaign for emancipation, we are in the meantime to have the attitude of Paul:
And he is, of course, speaking from a Torah-mindset, not a secular one.
"Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Messiah; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Messiah, doing the will of Elohim (God) from the lev (heart), 7 with good will doing service, as to the Master (Yah'shua/Jesus), and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Master, whether he is a slave or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him" (Eph.6:5-9, NKJV).
"Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven" (Col.4:1, NKJV).
Here, as elsewhere, no distinction is made between lawful (biblically-speaking) indentured service and actual, anti-Torah slavery. It is not clear which Paul is addressing, but likely both, since both existed in his time. If we are honest, we will soon discover that we are all of us slaves of some sort to someone or other, and what matters the most to Yahweh is that Yah'shua (Jesus) is seen to shine through us until He raises up people who can change the unrighteousness in any system by making appeal to goodness and righteousness.
The Bible approaches issues of ungodly slavery from the inside out, whereas secular politics works the other way round:
And indeed, that is how men like William Wilberforce (1759-1833) in England ended slavery in his country and throughout the British Empire, by appealing to the conscience of parliament and his people. Emancipation for slaves in America would come much later, but by a different and less satisfactory method: civil war. And as we know, war and politics do not really resolve anything permanently so long as the levim (hearts) of men remain unchanged. The prejudices and resentments persisted even after the North beast the South, and still do. That is why an appeal to conscience and spirit is always superior to force. As one statesman wisely noted (in respect of Germany's and Poland's historical territorial disputes): "Nothing is settled permanently unless settled amicably". Though treaties have been signed under duress recognising unjust border changes and population explusions, nothing is really resolved there. The same is true of the injustice of slavery. Levim (hearts) have to be changed first.
"If a person experiences the love, mercy, and grace of [Elohim (God)] by receiving His salvation, [Elohim (God)] will reform his soul, changing the way he thinks and acts. A person who has exoperienced [Elohim's (God's)] gift of salvation and freedom from the slavery of sin, as [Elohim (God)] reforms his soul, will realize that enslaving another human being is wrong. A person who has truly experienced [Elohim's (God's)] grace will in turn be gracious towards others. That would be the Bible's prescription for ending slavery" .
You also have to recognise that under the New Covenant, one who is (under Torah) technically obliged to place himself under indentured service may, if his master so chooses, be acquitted of his debt as a shere act of grace (undeserved loving kindness, unmerited favour), something our modern laws rarely, if ever, permit, because they no longer recognise grace as once they did when nations were Christian, even if the State loves to play the generous 'master' by granting parole and the like. The problem with that is the state is not an individual, and grace can only really be extended by the one who has been directly wronged. In an ideal world of the Israelite Confederacy and Theocracy, which we will have in the Millennium, there is no 'state' per se and justice is served at the local level amongst those whom it concerns (the grieved and the criminal) under Torah regulations. We are not currently under such a system, and won't be until Yah'shua (Jesus) returns so we must campaign for justice using the non-violent avenues open to us in the corrupt systems that prevail. We must, though, in the first instance, appeal to righteousness. Violence, even in a righteous cause, rarely achieves anything good or lasting. That is why authentic believers must be pacifists, as taught by Yah'shua (Jesus) and the apostles.
Tomorrow we will look at another aspect of 'slavery' described in Torah and perhaps the most controversial of all.
 GotQuestions?org's Does the Bible Condone Slavery?