Board index Slavery in the Bible

Re: Exodus 21:4-6, 20-21

Postby Regnus Numis » Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:16 pm

> It has to do with the context of theocracy. Their laws were intended for Israel as a theocratic state. When Israel/Judah fell (586 BC), the civil law (subjugation of idolaters and unbelievers into slavery just to teach them the gospel) became defunct with it. The civil law was not intended to be carried out by every government in history. It is no longer something secular governments are responsible to carry out.

Why did Old Testament laws only apply to ancient Israel? The fact that such laws are no longer in effect must mean they fulfilled their purpose, so what was the purpose of Old Testament laws? Also, was subjugation God's chosen method of conversion in the ancient era because any other method would've been ineffective, unlike today where people debate and reason with each other?
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Re: Exodus 21:4-6, 20-21

Postby jimwalton » Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:17 pm

That's right. The laws fulfilled their purpose. That's stated for us in at least two places: Mt. 5.17 and Gal. 3.15-25.

The purpose of the OT laws was at least 3-fold: (1) as a temporary tutor (2) to show people that none were righteous and (3) to point people to Jesus. The law was a temporary measure—God wanted to tell His people that they should have certain attitudes. He did that by commanding actions (the law) with the idea that they would see the attitudes behind them. They failed. Christ, on the other hand, preached the attitudes (Matthew 5) but more importantly lived an example of the proper attitudes (Philippians 2.5-8) as well as the proper actions (John 8.46), thus accomplishing what the law failed to accomplish. So the rule of thumb now is that we follow Christ's example. We can, in that sense, ignore the law, because if we follow Christ's example, we'll get both the actions of the law and the attitudes of the heart. Since the law was supposed to reflect the right attitudes, starting with the right attitudes will more often than not bring about actions that are in keeping with the law. But we don't do them because of the law; we do them because that is what godly attitudes bring about. So all of the law was fulfilled in Christ and our behavior now is not based at all on the law but on Jesus's example (cf. Romans 13.8-10). The coinciding with many points of the law is to be expected, but we are not living by even that section of law.

The law was designed to prevent a repeat of the Fall (Gn. 3), when access to God's presence was lost. It is also to provide a means for Israel to survive in such close proximity to the (intrinsically dangerous) presence of YHWH. The Law loses its primary significance if there is no abiding presence of God, which is the main reason the NT views the Law as having lost its role after Pentecost. After all, once the Holy Spirit descended, God's presence dwelled in his people, who became the temple, rather than in a geographical location (1 Cor. 3.16; 6.19; 2 Cor. 6.16). God never intended the law to be final, and therefore a means whereby man might be justified and saved. The law was given to the people in covenant. It was a rule of life, not of justification; it was a guide to the man who was already right in God's esteem in virtue of his general attitude towards the covenant. The law is not to Israel as a law of morals on the bare ground of human duty, apart from God's exhibition of His grace. It is a line marked out along which the life of the people or the person in covenant with God, and already right with God on that ground, is to unfold itself.

> Was subjugation God's chosen method of conversion in the ancient era because any other method would've been ineffective?

Yes, given the cultural context. God's first desire was that the Canaanites accept the offer of peace extended to them and become integrated into the covenant community (Dt. 20.10). His chosen method was peace through friendly relations. What God is interested in is bringing all people into relationship with Him and living in peace with each other. The subjugation (Dt. 20.11) is corvee labor to build the nation. It was the only cultural mechanism to bring about integration. As I mentioned, walk away, deportation, and occupation didn't accomplish the goal of integration. But the people would not just have said, "Sure, we'll forget about our ways and our cultural identity and become part of you." Rahab did exactly that (Josh. 2-6), and peacefully became part of the Israelites. So also Ruth (Ruth 1-2). Anyone else could have done that as well. But when they didn't, the only mechanism was corvee labor.
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Re: Exodus 21:4-6, 20-21

Postby Regnus Numis » Mon Jan 08, 2018 1:59 pm

> The purpose of the OT laws was at least 3-fold: (1) as a temporary tutor (2) to show people that none were righteous and (3) to point people to Jesus.

So where does the civil law (subjugation of idolaters and unbelievers into slavery just to teach them the gospel) fit into the picture? Which purpose applies to the civil law, and how was this purpose fulfilled? Or would you say the purpose of this civil law was to preserve Israel until Christ's arrival? After all, you mentioned that Israel would've fallen into ruin if they didn't subjugate the cities.

So to be clear, does the civil law no longer apply because its purpose was fulfilled, or because subjugation was no longer the only effective method of conversion?

Also, if one purpose of the OT laws was to expose the unrighteousness of the Israelites, why would the Law of Moses bother to accommodate their hard hearts, as suggested in Matthew 19:8? Why not prohibit practices like divorce and polygamy from the beginning?

> The law was designed to prevent a repeat of the Fall (Gn. 3)

How would a repeat of the Fall be possible? And how was the law supposed to prevent it?
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Re: Exodus 21:4-6, 20-21

Postby jimwalton » Mon Jan 08, 2018 2:31 pm

> subjugation of idolaters and unbelievers into slavery just to teach them the gospel

I guess I should deal with this first. I just let it slide yesterday to address the more pertinent issues. But this sentence is a bit of a misunderstanding. They weren't really subjugating the people just to teach them the gospel. That's not really accurate. Their commission was to destroy their identity as a people. That could be accomplished by several means: (1) integrating them into Israel; (2) driving them from the land; (3) subjugating them; (4) worst case scenario and last resort: war and destruction.

> So where does the civil law fit into the picture?

The civil law was to guide Israel to become a holy people (Ex. 19.6). It defined holy behavior, prohibiting what was destructive to Israel's relationship with God, promoting what cultivated a proper relationship with God, and it showed them how to love God and to love their neighbor as themselves. The civil laws show God to be a God of justice and truth.

> does the civil law no longer apply because its purpose was fulfilled, or because subjugation was no longer the only effective method of conversion?

Both. Jesus fulfilled the Law in its entirety. Also, we no longer stone adulterers, subjugate pagans in Canaan, kill gays, execute those who work on the Sabbath, etc. That was for the theocracy of ancient Israel and it no longer applies. It has little to do with whether it was effective or not.

> if one purpose of the OT laws was to expose the unrighteousness of the Israelites, why would the Law of Moses bother to accommodate their hard hearts, as suggested in Matthew 19:8? Why not prohibit practices like divorce and polygamy from the beginning?

Great question. I can feed you some answers from worthy scholars.

Craig Keener: "Jewish teachers of the Law recognized a legal category called "concession": something that was permitted only because it was better to regulate sin than to relinquish control over it altogether. Given God's purpose in creation, divorce naturally fell into such a category (cf. Mal. 2.14-16)."

France: "Jesus...refuses to allow a necessary concession to human sinfulness to be elevated into a divine principle. Jesus's appeal to first principles has the effect of apparently setting one passage of Scripture against another, but this is not in the sense of repudiating one in favor or the other, but of insisting that each is given its proper function—the one as a statement of the ideal will of God, and the other as a (regrettable but necessary) provision for those occasions when human sinfulness has failed to maintain the ideal."

Lane: "Jesus's forceful retort is a denunciation of human sinfulness that serves to clarify the intention of the Mosaic provision. In Dt. 24:1 divorce is tolerated, but not authorized or sanctioned. When Jesus affirmed that Moses framed the provision concerning the letter of dismissal out of regard to the people's hardness of heart, he was using an established legal category of actions allowed out of consideration for wickedness or weakness. What is involved is the lesser of two evils, and, in this instance, a merciful concession for the sake of the woman. Thus Jesus's purpose is to make clear that the intention of Dt. 24:1 was not to make divorce acceptable but to limit sinfulness and to control its consequences. This had direct bearing on the question of the lawfulness of divorce posed in verse 2. The Mosaic provision in Dt. 24:1-4 was in reality a witness to the gross evil which arose from, or even consisted in, a disregard of the creation ordinance of marriage as set forth in Genesis 1: 27; 2:24. The situation that provided the occasion for the permission of divorce was one of moral perversity that consisted in a deliberate determination not to abide by the will of God. Such stubborn rebellion against the divine ordinance is the essence of hard-heartedness. The calloused attitude which could be taken in regard to divorce is well-illustrated by the counsel of a respected teacher, Joshua ben Sira (ca. 200 BC): "If she go not as you would have her go, cut her off and give her bill of divorce" (literally "cut her off from your flesh," a reflection on the phrase "they shall be one flesh" in Genesis 2:24; cf. Ecclus. 25:26). Jesus’s judgment regarding hard-heartedness presupposes the abiding validity and obligation of the original divine institution of marriage, and the force of his pronouncement here, and in the following verses, is to obliterate the Mosaic tolerance. In this abrogation of the divorce tolerated under Moses there is applied a stringency which raises jurisprudence to the level of the intrinsic requirement of the Law of God."

I have more, but I hate to just cut and paste too much and dump on you. Hopefully that helps give you the idea.

> How would a repeat of the Fall be possible? And how was the law supposed to prevent it?

The real tragedy in the Garden of Eden was not access to the Garden but rather the loss of God's presence. Subsequently, God designed other ways that they could have His presence with them, viz. the tabernacle (and later its successor, the temple). If they would atone for sins, do ritual cleansing, keep illness at bay with specific hygienic practices, God would be able to dwell in their midst and be their God. But the priests had to care for sacred space and the people had to honor it. If they failed, they would once again sacrifice access to God's presence (which is what eventually happened when the temple was destroyed in 586 BC).

Following that, God once again strategized how to give them access to his presence, and that was in the person of Jesus, his death on the cross, and the filling of the HS. These are arrangements that are not subject to failure, and so God's presence will go with us until the end of the age.
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Re: Exodus 21:4-6, 20-21

Postby Regnus Numis » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:36 pm

> Their commission was to destroy their identity as a people. That could be accomplished by several means: (1) integrating them into Israel; (2) driving them from the land; (3) subjugating them; (4) worst case scenario and last resort: war and destruction.

I'm aware of that; it's just the fact that Christians typically don't approach others to offer a peaceful opportunity of conversion and threaten violence if people don't convert. You say that Deuteronomy 20:11-12 no longer applies because Jesus fulfilled the Law, but I don't see how He could have fulfilled this specific law, unless the purpose was to preserve Israel until Christ's arrival.

> Both. Jesus fulfilled the Law in its entirety.
> It has little to do with whether it was effective or not.

I'm a little confused here; you say the civil law (i.e. Deuteronomy 20:11-12) no longer applies both because Jesus fulfilled the civil law and subjugation was no longer the only effective method of conversion, yet later you assert efficiency has little to do with why Deuteronomy 20:11-12 no longer applies?

> quotes by Keener, France, and Lane

I believe your answers are telling me what I already know. I'll frame my question differently: Wouldn't a set of laws perfectly reflecting God's ideal will expose the Israelites' unrighteousness more effectively than a set of laws accommodating their hard hearts? If God wanted to prescribe high moral standards to highlight people's wickedness, then why not go all the way? What would have happened if God didn't include accommodations within the Law of Moses?
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Re: Exodus 21:4-6, 20-21

Postby jimwalton » Tue Jan 09, 2018 6:05 pm

> it's just the fact that Christians typically don't approach others to offer a peaceful opportunity of conversion and threaten violence if people don't convert.


Christians don't, shouldn't, and won't. This was part of the conquest. There was never any other time in history when the Israelites were fighting offensively to gain land. In the Conquest they were commanded by God to take back the land He had given to them. There is no other time in the Bible when the Israelites were commanded to take land or to fight offensive wars. After the Conquest, their wars were always defensive, or to take the rest of the land near taken during the Conquest.

These were commands for the Conquest and for their life as Israelites. As I've mentioned, once Israel ended (586 BC), these are not commands for Christians.

> I don't see how [Jesus] could have fulfilled this specific law, unless the purpose was to preserve Israel until Christ's arrival.

He didn't. As I said, the law Christ fulfilled was the law in general—not one part of it. He fulfilled it in that He did what the law failed to do: showed the people how to live in God's presence. The part about driving the pagan people from the land is that holiness demands separation from sin and evil. Holiness also rebuffs temptation to sin. Holiness also involves only in true worship. That's why the Canaanites had to be driven from the land or incorporated into Israel.

> ...no longer applies both because Jesus fulfilled the civil law and subjugation was no longer the only effective method of conversion,

You'll remember that I backed off on this somewhat. You'll remember I wrote, "But this sentence is a bit of a misunderstanding. They weren't really subjugating the people just to teach them the gospel. That's not really accurate. Their commission was to destroy their identity as a people. That could be accomplished by several means..."

> I'll frame my question differently: Wouldn't a set of laws perfectly reflecting God's ideal will expose the Israelites' unrighteousness more effectively than a set of laws accommodating their hard hearts?

God did set the ideal before them. In Gen. 2.24, we read that marriage was designed to be exclusive, monogamous, permanent, heterosexual, and unified both physically and spiritually. Jesus confirms that interpretation in Mt. 19.4-6. So God did give a set of laws perfectly reflecting his ideal, going all the way. This is also confirmed in Malachi 2.13-16.

The text to which Jesus is referring, Deut. 24.1-4, was written to protect people, especially the woman. There divorces is not encouraged or sanctioned, but it was at least tolerated. The law was written to protect women, because there had to be clear grounds, legal procedures, and economic compensation. What happened was that men took this law and made rules about what they interpreted it was saying so they could still manipulate circumstances to their wills. Jesus shows that they were distorting it for manipulative purposes. (In the Hillel rabbinic school, a woman could be divorced for just about any reason, from burning a meal to irreconcilable differences.) But God hadn't lowered his ideal. Jesus didn't say divorce was right, or even good. In contrast, He said that divorce had never been right. As to why God chose to be accommodating on this particular issues and not on others is never explained.
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Re: Exodus 21:4-6, 20-21

Postby Regnus Numis » Thu Jan 11, 2018 3:26 pm

> God did set the ideal before them. In Gen. 2.24, we read that marriage was designed to be exclusive, monogamous, permanent, heterosexual, and unified both physically and spiritually. Jesus confirms that interpretation in Mt. 19.4-6. So God did give a set of laws perfectly reflecting his ideal, going all the way. This is also confirmed in Malachi 2.13-16.

Once people failed to realize the attitudes behind God's initial set of ideal laws, why didn't God promptly send Christ to exemplify the proper attitudes instead of replacing those laws with a more accommodating set of laws?
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Re: Exodus 21:4-6, 20-21

Postby jimwalton » Thu Jan 11, 2018 3:28 pm

It's a great question. There is no specific explanation about God's timing, but we can try to infer some things about God's decisions by looking at His patterns.

God values process. When we observe God at work through history, there are often long periods of time (oddly, almost always in the vicinity of 400 years) when He allows certain things to play out, settle in, mess up, etc., and for people to have that kind of time span to shape up, fly right, learn the lesson, or make a change.

God accomplishes important things during the interim periods. It's not always about the pinnacle events, but often about the journey between them. People's lives are shaped by the years of events and relationships. People make choices, deal with uncertainties, reorient values, make commitments—all because God DIDN'T do it right away, but "dawdled".

All along the way, by looking back at history and also by examining our lives, we have opportunities to tune our attitudes, adjust our behavior, and engage in real life. It's just possible that by jumping right in, again and again, humanity would be deprived of something valuable. And of course there's another side of the coin: humanity would also not have to go through some times of confusion and suffering. Possibly there's also some value in the valley and shadows. It's where we learn important lessons of character.

But I can't say specifically. No one can. Galatians 4.2-4 makes it sound like God had his plan of salvation timed out for optimum impact. Romans 5.6 says that it was at "the right time" that Christ died. Why didn't he send Christ back in the days of Moses? We can only speculate.
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Re: Exodus 21:4-6, 20-21

Postby Regnus Numis » Sun Jan 14, 2018 3:17 pm

Thanks for the response. I just have three additional questions:

1. Were New Testament verses like Colossians 4:1 and Ephesians 6:9 referring to the chattel slavery of Greco-Rome?
2 Was 1 Corinthians 7:21 encouraging slaves to seek emancipation or to make good use of their servitude?
3. Does the Greek word ανδραποδισταις actually refer to slave traders in 1 Timothy 1:10?

My last two questions are based on my reading of http://www.bible-researcher.com/slavery.html
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Re: Exodus 21:4-6, 20-21

Postby jimwalton » Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:32 pm

> Were New Testament verses like Colossians 4:1 and Ephesians 6:9 referring to the chattel slavery of Greco-Rome?

I would guess so. Greco-Rome was Paul's cultural and literary context. The texts were a very counter-cultural expression of treating a slave the way one would treat as if Jesus were working for you—with honor and respect, in all fairness. Be a boss of integrity and honor, not just of power and the abuses that come with it. The one in authority is also under authority, and is accountable for every word spoken and every deed done. In other words, you are not the Big Boss, just the undershepherd. Those under your authority are your stewardship responsibility, not your possessions. Treat them the way you want your Boss to treat you.

God has a character of absolute righteousness and justice. Any slave (or employee) should use the same words to describe their master or boss. A master should not think God will treat him more lightly or even differently because of his privileged position. If anything, it may be just the opposite: God will hold him more accountable (James 3.1).

> Was 1 Corinthians 7:21 encouraging slaves to seek emancipation or to make good use of their servitude?

Good question. There seems to be a bit of a conflict of interpretation. The Greek seems to favor the idea of freedom, with the phrase in question being the last one: μᾶλλον χρῆσαι. μᾶλλον is "by all means," and χρῆσαι is "Make the most of; take advantage of; use it rather." How to translate it becomes tricky. "By all means use it." What does THAT mean? It could go either way, couldn't it?

It's true that Paul often went with status quo: stay were you are and be the most godly person possible. On rare occasions (and almost reluctantly) he allowed divorce, and with Philemon he possibly encouraged emancipation (Philemon 1.16, 17). About slavery as an institution Paul doesn't seem to take a stance. It's possible to take this in several ways. Craig Keener says that no ancient philosopher forced their morality on society. Every attempt at slave revolt had been brutally suppressed by the Empire, so Paul's advice is not to revolt but to remain in the situation and be the most godly person possible.

Hodge says, "As far as your status as a slave, it doesn't matter pertaining to your Christianity, so it need give no concern. It's not Paul's point that one should never attempt to improve their condition, but simply not to allow their social relations to disturb them, or to imagine that their becoming Christians rendered it necessary to change those relations."

> Does the Greek word ανδραποδισταις actually refer to slave traders in 1 Timothy 1:10?

The literal translation of the term is "men-stealers." As your link says, kidnapping people to sell them as slaves, to make money, was a common practice (also referred to in Ex. 21.16 & Dt. 24.7). That would seem to be the simplest most straight-lined way to understand the term. Robertson seems to think the term reaches beyond such a tight and restricted definition and instead branches out to include all kinds of slave trading. Therein lies the rub. How technically should we take the term? Brownson says these slave traders often served as pimps in male prostitution rings. He asserts that "Roman government tried on several occasions to pass laws banning this practice, and it was about as effective as Prohibition in the US."

Paul Copan comments, "Paul (and Peter) didn't call for an uprising to overthrow slavery in Rome. They didn't want the Christian faith to be perceived as opposed to social order and harmony. Hence, Christian slaves were told to do what was right, even if they were mistreated (1 Pet. 2.18-20; Eph. 6.5-9). Abraham Lincoln took the same approach. Though he despised slaved and talked freely about this degrading institution, his first priority was to hold the Union together rather than try to abolish slavery immediately."

So it's tough to know the answers to your questions. We wish we knew more about the terms and more about what was going on in the Empire to which Paul was referring. It does seem, however, that Paul is speaking against at least some vile parts of the slavery system, if not all of it.
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