Muslims quote the following:
“However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.” (Leviticus 25:44-46)
This passage, they say, proves that slavery is condoned by the Bible.
I can write pages of articles on this but let’s just give them a brief answer.
Before answering this objection, I’m going to quote two verses; one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament and immediately it will be apparent that this claim is flawed:
From the Old Testament:
“Whoever kidnaps someone, either to sell him or to keep him as a slave is to be put to death.” – Exodus 21:16
From the New Testament:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female – for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. –Galatians 3:28
Do these two verses sound like condoning slavery?
Now, let’s answer to this claim.
Israel was prohibited from territorial gains beyond what Yahweh had promised to Abraham (Deuteronomy 2:1-23). Moreover, Israel was prohibited the practice of “forced slavery” as seen in Exodus 21:16, “Whoever kidnaps someone, either to sell him or to keep him as a slave, is to be put to death.”
In another passage Moses declares, “If any of you kidnap Israelites and make them your slaves or sell them into slavery, you are to be put to death. In this way your nation will get rid of this evil” – Deuteronomy 24:7. In the first one, there is a general prohibition against slavery of anyone and in the second, a specific order against slavery of Israelites.
Voluntary slavery is a completely different situation. Voluntary slavery arises when a person becomes so poor that they cannot make a living, cannot provide for themselves, and sell themselves into a relationship with a person who has money and can provide for the poor person. The Hebrew word for this is “ebed.” meaning servant, or bondman. The Bible describes Israel as the Lord’s bondservant, or slave, the same word ebed.
Muslims have distorted these verses out of context but we will look at the whole context. They quote Leviticus 25:44-46, but let’s quote it from verse 39-40:
“If any Israelites living near you become SO POOR that THEY SELL THEMSELVES to you as a slave, you shall not make them do the work of a slave. They shall stay with you as hired workers and serve you until the next Year of Restoration.” – Leviticus 25:39-40
The issue of poverty was one of the reasons that people sold themselves as servants. There were also provisions for freedom. They could be bought back by a relative, or by their own money. Working for someone else did not mean that they received nothing. “By their own money” (v. 49) meant a certain freedom to gain money and buy their own freedom.
We have no reason to believe that the same was not true for the foreigners in the land. The verse says, “Purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land,” (Leviticus 25:44) and these were probably people like the Hebrews who fell on hard times and were poor. Being a servant in another household was better than starving. The rights are spelled out for the Hebrews but they would also apply to the foreigners who were welcomed into the land. The people were commanded: “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner; remember that you were foreigners in Egypt. Do not mistreat any widow or orphan.” – Exodus 22:21-22
“Suppose a foreigner living with you becomes rich, while some Israelites become poor and SELL THEMSELVES AS SLAVES to that foreigner or to a member of that foreigner’s family. After they are sold, they still have the right to be bought back. A brother or an uncle or a cousin or another close relative may buy them back; or if they themselves earn enough, they may buy their own freedom. They must consult the one who bought them, and they must count the years from the time they sold themselves until the next Year of Restoration and must set the price for their release on the basis of the wages paid hired workers. They must refund a part of the purchase price according to the number of years left, as if they had been hired on an annual basis. Their master must not treat them harshly. If they are not set free in any of these ways, they and their children must be set free in the next Year of Restoration. Israelites cannot be permanent slaves, because the people of Israel are the LORD’s slaves. He brought them out of Egypt; he is the LORD their God. – Leviticus 25:47-55
The central issue here is that slavery was initiated BY the slave, NOT by the owners, DEFINITELY not by force. The passage about inheritance needs some caveats:
First, the verses say “you may” pass them on to your children, not that it was automatic, necessary, expected, or standard practice. It may be that the prosperity changes could have reduced the owner’s ability to support the slave.
Second, this may well refer to servants who did not want to go free as expressed in Exodus 21:5, “But if the slave declares that he loves his master, his wife, and his children and does not want to be set free,” there was a ceremony at the place of worship for declaring him to be a slave for life. There is a similar procedure described in Deuteronomy 15:16 in which a person could become a slave for life because “he may love you and your family and be content to stay.”
Third, given the fact that slaves could earn money, they could buy their own freedom: “if they themselves earn enough, they may buy their own freedom.” – Leviticus 25:49
As we see, the so called “biblical slavery” isn’t the kind of slavery we all aware of. The Bible condemns “forced slavery” (Exodus 21:16), but condones “voluntary slavery” for a period of time because of poverty, unless the slaves do not want to be freed (Exodus 21:5).
It’s ironic how Muslims try to attack the Bible, without realizing, in so doing, they condemn their own Allah and Muhammad. Muhammad had slaves and the Qur’an condones slavery (Qur’an 4:24).
I call all Muslims to Christ today and stop fighting against the truth because that’s one thing we can never win against. Follow this link and receive your salvation today.