Comfort Lies About Slavery in the Bible


In his latest Worldnutdaily column, which was written in response to a question he got on Facebook about slavery and the Bible, Ray Comfort does a rather obvious snowjob over the subject of slavery in the Bible. Like most Christian apologists, he mentions one kind of servitude and then pretends that it is the only kind:

The Old Testament contains 613 precepts of Hebrew law: moral (for example, the Ten Commandments), civil (if you steal an ox you pay back an ox – what we call “restitution”) and ceremonial (ordinances of worship – what to wear, building the Tabernacle, etc.). A slave in Scripture is also called a “bond servant.” If someone got into debt, they could pay off that “bond” by working for the person to whom they owed money.

Nowadays we throw people into prison, costing the state billions, and no one gets paid back. In American history, human beings were kidnapped from other countries and sold into cruel slavery. Kidnapping under Hebrew law, however, was outlawed and was punishable by death.

He’s lying. Yes, it’s certainly true that the Bible does command this kind of indentured servitude, which was temporary. That’s all in Exodus 21. But Leviticus 25 clearly spells out two entirely different kinds of servitude, one for their fellow Israelites that fall into debt (the kind Comfort mentions) and one for foreigners (the kind Comfort conveniently pretends does not exist). Here’s the rule for Israelites:

39 “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves. 40 They are to be treated as hired workers or temporary residents among you; they are to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. 41 Then they and their children are to be released, and they will go back to their own clans and to the property of their ancestors. 42 Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. 43 Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God.

And here’s the rule for actual slaves:

44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

When the Israelites conquered another group of people, they took many of those people as slaves (which was the norm for all nations at the time). So yes, they did kidnap people and keep them as slaves to be bought or sold as property forever, handing the slaves and their offspring down to their children and grandchildren. And all of that is done at God’s explicit command.

And the excuses that Christians come up with for this are utterly laughable. I’ve heard some claim that God was always opposed to slavery, but he knew he had to bring his people along slowly in this regard rather than just telling them straight out to stop. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with any other rule. According to the Bible, God hands out hundreds of very specific and explicit commandments, down to what to eat and how to dress, and makes violations of many of those commands punishable by death. But nowhere does he say “Oh yeah, and don’t own other human beings. It’s wrong.”

Comments

  1. Childermass says

    “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.” — Exodus 21:20 (KJV)

    He is just money which other versions translate as property.

  2. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    @Childermass:

    The original Hebrew has kesef, which is literally “silver” but was used by extension to mean “money” (like French argent).

  3. alanb says

    From Creation Ministries International:

    Slavery, as referred to here in the Bible, as in much of the ancient world, was more like indentured servitude, or even modern employment— in the ancient world, the President’s cabinet would be called his ‘slaves’; you would similarly be the ‘slave’ of your employer.

    So far I have unable to find the part in the Constitution where the President is allowed to smite his cabinet members.

  4. Alverant says

    Nonstampcollecter did a video about this. God couldn’t grasp the part of two kinds of slavery either.

  5. Moggie says

    “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.” — Exodus 21:20 (KJV)

    In other words: you can beat your slave to death, provided they don’t die immediately.

  6. Zugswang says

    This is uncannily like Non-Stamp Collector’s video about slavery. It’s like fundamentalists have this blatantly intentional ignorance written down in a book somewhere that they consult for making terrible arguments.

  7. chrislrob says

    There’s no way Comfort doesn’t know the facts of biblical slavery. Just a double-dog liar. I had a similar argument with someone last year. Biblical enslavement of foreigners is EXACTLY the same as American slavery. Sickening.

  8. says

    Gee, the guy who keeps insisting that carbon-14 dating is a fraud no matter how times it’s been explained to him said something dishonest?

    I’m shocked.

  9. Sastra says

    I think that religion encourages a style of thinking which focuses much too strongly on the in-group. Christianity is a perfect example of this. I mean, here we have a religion which teaches that only a few people in the world will be able to escape the fiery destruction of the earth and the painful suffering of Hell — and they call this the “Good News.” You can only market that to a narrow circle of insiders and a select few who want to be part of the select few.

    The slave slaves in the Bible are like the damn damned. Bad guys. They don’t count. So you apparently don’t have to look at them or consider their viewpoint when you marvel over God’s perfect wisdom and compassion to all.

    I’ve heard some claim that God was always opposed to slavery, but he knew he had to bring his people along slowly in this regard rather than just telling them straight out to stop. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with any other rule.

    That seems to be their approach for every serious problem with the Bible: God used bad stories and promoted bad morals because he was framing for His audience. He could only inspire them at the level they were on.

    But even if you grant this, the stories and morals could have been better than they were. Easily. only a little imagination is needed to improve them towards enlightenment standards. Ancient people were not all like orcs — and there was philosophy and ideas already out there which was better than this garbage. If you want to praise the Bible as offering us valuable and useful insight into the temper and mores of the historical mid-east, fine: now drop the Special Revelations from God For the Ages aspect.

  10. rabbitscribe says

    “… in the ancient world, the President’s cabinet would be called his ‘slaves’…

    My job involves US Department of Transportation compliance. I’d pay top dollar for Ray LaHood just so I could boss him around for a change.

  11. raven says

    The New Testament is the same.

    It was written in Greek. The word in Greek for slave is used often. It is usually translated as “servant”.

    Jesus himself gives instructions on how to beat your slaves seemingly unaware that slavery might be considered immoral.

  12. raven says

    There is another form a slavery in the bible, common, ubiquitous, taken for granted.

    Concubine, female sex slave. In Exodus you can sell your kids as sex slaves if you need a few bucks.

    Solomon, that hero of the OT had 700 wives and 300 sex slaves.

    Anyone following an OT lifestyle today would be doing multiple life sentences in prison. Warren Jeffs tried it and got life + 20 years.

  13. D. C. Sessions says

    I’ve heard some claim that God was always opposed to slavery, but he knew he had to bring his people along slowly in this regard rather than just telling them straight out to stop. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with any other rule.

    Not quite — apparently prior to the Flood people were forbiddent to eat meat, but Noah and sons were permitted it afterwards (although with some restrictions.)

    However, that particular revision to the rules is explicit in Genesis, not tacked on by people thousands of years afterwards as an excuse for “pay no attention to the text.”

  14. raven says

    Not quite — apparently prior to the Flood people were forbiddent to eat meat, but Noah and sons were permitted it afterwards (although with some restrictions.)

    ??? I don’t remember that at all from Genesis. Abel the son who was killed was a herdsman.

    According to Genesis, Noah took two of each kind of animal except “clean” ones. The clean ones were 7 pairs. IIRC, “clean” meant permitted to be eaten, sheep, cows, etc..

  15. kantalope says

    the discussion below the article is a study in being bonkers:

    life was tough back then – therefore slavery ok
    god is mysterious, you don’t know why god is ok with slavery
    if it was death by genocide or slavery – slavery is ok
    if a christian says bible says no slavery – and an atheist says bible says slavery – therefore christian is right
    slavery bad – therefore Jesus – (subtext: I’m sure Jesus fixed up that whole slavery thing)
    slaves are like permanent employees – therefore slavery is ok
    slavery in other places was worse – therefore this slavery ok

    aaaaand then i could not read anymore – conclusion by hasty generalization – they just don’t care what the bible says or does not say but whatever it says the bible always agrees with whatever I need it to say at the moment.

  16. says

    Excuse me … 44 is spurious and put there by Satan to make God look bad…

    They only accept the scripture that fits their ideological beliefs. The end.

  17. Childermass says

    alanb@5 citing CMI:

    We are all a bunch of anti-business thugs who hate America so much that we don’t think that an employer should put all their employees’ children to work.

    ;-)

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