Page images

nize the right of the master to hold him; his fleeing shows his choice -proclaims his wrongs and his title to protection; you shall not force him back and thus recognize the right of the master to hold him in such a condition as induces him to flee to others for protection.” It may be said that this command referred only to the servants of heathen masters in the surrounding nations. We answer, the terms of the command are unlimited. But the objection, if valid, would merely shift the pressure of the difficulty to another point. Did God require them to protect the free choice of a single servant from the heathen, and yet authorize the same persons, to crush the free choice of thousands of servants from the heathen? Suppose a case. A foreign servant flees to the Israelites ; God says,

“ He shall dwell with thee, in that place which he shall choose, in one of thy gates where it liketh him best.” Now, suppose this same servant, instead of coming into Israel of his own accord, had been dragged in by some kidnapper who bought him of his master, and forced him into a condition against his will; would He who forbade such treatment of the stranger, who voluntarily came into the land, sanction the same treatment of the same person, provided in addition to this last outrage, the previous one had been committed of forcing him into the nation against his will ? To commit violence on the free choice of a foreign servant is forsooth a horrible enormity, PROVIDED you begin the violence after he has come among you. But if you commit the first act on the other side of the line ; if you begin the outrage by buying him from a third person against his will, and then tear him from home, drag him across the line into the land of Israel, and hold him as a slave-ah! that alters the case, and you may perpetrate the violence now with impunity! Would greater favor have been shown to this new comer than to the old residents—those who had been servants in Jewish families perhaps for a generation? Were the Israelites commanded to exercise toward him, uncircumcised and out of the covenant, a justice and kindness denied to the multitudes who were circumcised, and within the covenant ? But, the objector finds small gain to his argument on the supposition that the covenant respected merely the fugitives from the surrounding nations, while it left the servants of the Israelites in a condition against their wills. In that case, the surrounding nations would adopt retaliatory measures, and become so many asylums for Jewish fugitives. As these nations were not only on every side of them, but in their midst, such

[ocr errors]

a proclamation would have been an effectual lure to men whose condi. tion was a constant counteraction of will. Besides the same command which protected the servant from the power of his foreign master, protected him equally from the power of an Israelite. It was not, “ Thou shalt not deliver him unto his master,” but “he shall dwell with thee, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates where it liketh him best." Every Israelite was forbidden to put him in any condition against his will. What was this but a proclamation, that all who chose to live in the land and obey the laws, were left to their own free will, to dispose of their services at such a rate, to such persons, and in such places as they pleased ? Besides, grant that this command prohibited the sending back of foreign servants merely, there was no law requiring the return of servants who had escaped from the Israclites. Property lost, and cattle escaped, they were required to return, but not escaped servants. These verses contain 1st, a command, “Thou shalt not deliver," &c., 20, a declaration of the fugitive's right of free choice, and of God's will that he should exercise it at his own discretion ; and 3d, a command guarding this right, namely, “ Thou shalt not oppress him," as though God had said, "If you restrain him from exercising his own choice, as to the place and condition of his residence, it is oppression.

111. We argue the voluntariness of servants from their peculiar opportunities and facilities for escape. Three times every year, all the males over twelve years, were required to attend the national feasts. They were thus absent from their homes not less than three weeks at each time, making nine weeks annually. As these caravans moved over the country, were there military scouts lining the way, to intercept deserters ?-a corporal's guard at each pass of the mountains, sentinels pacing the hill-tops, and light horse scouring the defiles? The Israelites must have had some safe contrivance for taking their “slaves" three times in a year to Jerusalem and back. When a body of slaves is moved any distance in our republic, they are hand-cuffed and chained together, to keep them from running away, or beating their drivers' brains out. Was this the Mosaic plan, or an improvement introduced by Samuel, or was it left for the wisdom of Solomon? The usage, doubtless, claims a paternity not less venerable and biblical! Perhaps they were lashed upon camels, and transported in bundles, or caged up, and trundled on wheels to and fro, and while at the Holy City, “ lodged in jail for safe keeping," the Sanhedrim appointing special religious services for their benefit, and their “drivers” officiating at “ORAL instruction.” Mean while, what became of the sturdy handmaids left at home? What hindered them from marching off in a body? Perhaps the Israelitish matrons stood sentry in rotation round the kitchens, while the young ladies scoured the country, as mounted rangers, picking up stragglers by day, and patrolled the streets, keeping a sharp look-out at night. iv. Their continuance in Jewish families depended upon the

per- ! formance of various rites necessarily voLUNTARY.

Suppose the servants from the heathen had upon entering Jewish families, refused circumcision ; if slaves, how simple the process of emancipation! Their refusal did the job. Or, suppose they had refused to attend the annual feasts, or had eaten unleavened bread during the Passover, or compounded the ingredients of the anointing oil, they would have been “cut off from the people ;" excommunicated.

v. We infer the voluntariness of the servants of the Patriarchs from the impossibility of their having been held against their wills. Abraham's servants are an illustration. At one time he had three hundred and eighteen young men

“ born in his house," and many more not born in his house. His servants of all ages, were probably

How Abraham and Sarah contrived to hold fast so many thousand servants against their wills, we are left quite in the dark. The most natural supposition is that the Patriarch and his wife took turns in surrounding them! The neighboring tribes, instead of constituting a picket guard to hem in his servants, would have been far more likely to sweep them and him into captivity, as they did Lot and his household. Besides, there was neither “ Constitution” compact,” to send back Abrahams's fugitives, nor a truckling police to pounce upon them, nor gentleman-kidnappers, suing for his patronage, volunteering to howl on their track, boasting their blood-hound scent, and pledging their “honor” to hunt down and “deliver up," provided they had a description of the “flesh-marks," and were suitably stimulated by picces of silver. Abraham seems also to have been sadly deficient in all the auxiliaries of family government, such as stocks, hand-cuffs, foot-chains, yokes, gags, and thumb-screws. His destitution of these patriarchal indispensables is the more afflicting, since he faithfully trained “his household to do justice and judgment,” though so deplorably destitute of the needful aids.



vi. We infer that servants were voluntary, as there is no instance of an Israelitish master SELLING a servant. Abraham had thousands of servants, but seems never to have sold one. Isaac “grew until he became very great,” and had “great store of servants.” Jacob's youth was spent in the family of Laban, where he lived a servant twenty-one years. Afterward he had a large number of servants. Joseph sent for Jacob to come into Egypt, “thou and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks and thy herds, and all THAT THOU HAST." Jacob took his flocks and herds but no servants. Gen. xlv. 10; xlvii. 16. They doubtless, served under their own contracts, and when Jacob went into Egypt, they chose to stay in their own country. The government might sell thieves, if they had no property, until their services had made good the injury, and paid the legal fine. Ex. xxii. 3. But masters seem to have had no power to sell their servants. To give the master a right to sell his servant

, would annihilate the servant's right of choice in his own disposal ; but

says the objector, “to give the master a right to buy a servant, equally annihilates the servant's right of choice." Answer. It is one thing to have a right to buy a man, and a different thing to have a right to buy him of another man.

Though servants were not bought of their masters, yet young females were bought of their fathers. But their purchase as servants was their betrothal as WIVES. Ex. xxi. 7, 8. " If a man sell his daughter to be a maid-servant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master who HATH BETROTHED HER TO HIMSELF, he shall let her be redeemed.”+

vii. We infer that the Hebrew servant was voluntary in comMENCING his service, because he was pre-eminently so IN CONTINUING it. If, at the year of release, it was the servant's choice to remain with his master, the law required his ear to be bored by the judges of the land, thus making it impossible for him to be held against his will.

* There is no evidence that masters had the power to dispose of even the services of their servants, as men hire out their laborers whom they employ by the year; but whether they had or not, affects not the argument.

at The comment of Maimonides on this passage is as follows: "A Hebrew handmaid might not be sold but to one who laid himself unler obligations, to espouse her to himself or to his son, when she was fit to be betrothed.”—Muir onides-HilcothObedim, Ch. IV. Sec. XI. Jarchi, on ihe same passage, says, “He is bound to espouse her and take her to be his wife, for the money of her purchase is the money of her espousal."

[ocr errors]

Yea more, his master was compelled to keep him, however much he might wish to get rid of him.

vili. The method prescribed for procuring servants, was an appeal to their choice. The Israelites were commanded to offer them a suitable inducement, and then leave them to decide. They might neither seize them by force, nor frighten them by threats, nor wheedle them by false pretences, nor borrow them, nor beg them; but they were commanded to buy them ;* that is, they were to recognize the right of the individuals to dispose of their own services, and their right to refuse all offers, and thus oblige those who made them, to do their own work. Suppose all, with one accord, had refused to become servants, what provision did the Mosaic law make for such an emergency ? NONE.

ix. Various incidental expressions corroborate the idea that ser vants became such by their own contract. Job xli. 4, is an illustration, “ Will he (Leviathan) make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a SERVANT forever ?

x. The transaction which made the Egyptians the SERVANTS OF PHARAOH was voluntary throughout. See Gen. xlvii. 18—26. Of their own accord they came to Joseph and said, “ We have not aught left but our bodies and our lands; buy us ;" then in the 25th verse, “ We will be servants to Pharaoh."

XI. We infer the voluntariness of servants, from the fact that RICH Strangers did not become servants. Indeed, so far were they from becoming servants themselves, that they bought and held Jewish ser

Lev. xxv. 47. XII. The sacrifices and offerings which all were required to present, were to be made voLUNTARILY. Lev. i. 2, 3.

xi. Mention is often made of persons becoming servants where they were manifestly and pre-eminently VOLUNTARY. As the Prophet Elisha.

[ocr errors]


1 Kings xix. 21 ; 2 Kings iii. 11. Elijah was his master. The word, translated master, is the same that is so rendered in almost every instance where masters are spoken of under the Mosaic and patriarchal systems. Moses was the servant of Jethro. Ex. iii. 1. Joshua was the servant of Moses. Num. xi. 28. Jacob was the servant of Laban. Gen. xxix. 18–27.

* The case of thieves, whose services were sold until they had earned enough to make restitution to the person wronged, and to pay the legal penalty, elands by itself, and has nothing to do with the condition of servants.

« PreviousContinue »