Page images

The following passages furnish a clue to Scripture usage on this point. 1 Kings xxi. 20, 25.-"Thou hast sold thyself to work evil." "There was none like to Ahab that sold himself to work wickedness."-2 Kings xvii. 17. They used divination and enchantments and sold themselves to do evil."-Isaiah 1. 1. "For your iniquities have ye sold yourselves. Isaiah lii. 3, "Ye have sold yourselves FOR NOUGHT, and ye shall be redeemed without money."-See also, Jeremiah xxxiv. 14-Romans vii. 14, and vi. 16-John viii. 34. Again, we infer that they were not bought of third persons, because no mention is ever made of it. The purchase of wives is spoken of not many times in the Bible, and yet in a considerable majority of cases it is expressly stated that they were bought of third persons. Is it not a fair inference, if servants were bought of third persons, that there would sometimes have been such an intimation.

Our second subject of inquiry is,


The general object of those statutes, which prescribed the relations of master and servant, was the good of both parties but more especially the good of the servants. While the interests of the master were carefully guarded from injury, those of the servants were sedulously promoted.

These laws were a merciful provision for the poorer classes, both of the Israelites and strangers.

Not imposing burdens grievous to be borne, but designed as a relief from afflictive burdens-a grant of privileges—a bestowment of favors. In proof of this, we state.

1. The fact that no servant from the strangers, could remain a servant in the family of an Israelite, without becoming a proselyte. Compliance with this condition was the price of the privilege.-Genesis xvii. 9--14, 23, 27.

2. Excommunication from the family was a PUNISHMENT.-Genesis xxi. 14-Luke xvi. 2--4.

3. The fact that every Hebrew servant could cOMPEL his master to keep him in his family after the original sixyears contract had expired, shows that the system was

framed to advance the interests and gratify the wishes of the servant, quite as much as those of the master. If the servant demanded it, the law obliged the master to retain him in his household, however little occasion he might have for his services, or great his dislike to the individual. Deuteronomy xv. 12-17, and Exodus xxi. 2—6.

4. The rights and privileges guaranteed by law to all


(1.) They were admitted into covenant with God.-Deuteronomy xxix. 10--13.

(2.) They were invited guests at the feast of the Passover, and all the national, as well as the family festivals of the household in which they resided.-Exodus xii. 43-44; Deuteronomy xii. 12, 18, and xvi. 10-16.

(3.) They were statedly instructed in morality and religion.-Deuteronomy xxxi. 10-13; Joshua viii. 33—35 ; 2 Chronicles xvii. 8-9.

(4.) They were released from their regular labor for an amount of time nearly equal to ONE HALF OF THE WHOLE. During this time the law secured to them not only an exemption from labor, but the entire support of themselves and their families; and the same public and family instruction that was provided for the other members of the Hebrew community.

(a.) The Law secured to them the whole of every seventh year, Lev. xxv. 3--6; thus giving to those servants that remained such during the entire period between the jubilees, eight whole years (including the Jubilee year) of unbro

ken rest.

(b.) Every seventh day. This in forty-two years, (the eight being substracted from the fifty) would amount to just six years.

(c.) The three great annual festivals. The Passover which commenced on the 15th of the 1st month, and lasted seven days, Deut. xvi. 3, 8. The Pentecost, or feast of Weeks, which began on the sixth day of the third month, and lasted seven days,-Lev. xvi. 10, 11. And the feast of Tabernacles, the celebration of which commenced on the 15th of the seventh month, and lasted eight days,-Deut. xvi. 13, 15.-Lev. xxiii. 34-39. As they were required to meet in one place from all parts of the land, much time would be consumed on their journey by the slow movement of their

cumbered caravans, and after their arrival at the place of sacrifice, a day or two at least, would be requisite for divers preparations; before entering on the celebration of the festival, besides some time at the close of it, in necessary preparations for their return. If we assign three weeks to each festival-including the time spent on the journey going and returning, and the necessary delays before and after the celebration, together with the festival week; it will be a meagre allowance of time for the absence of the bulk of the people from their homes and regular labor. As the festivals occurred three times in the year, the main body of the servants would be released from their stated employments at least nine weeks annually, in attendance upon these triyearly celebrations, which would amount in 42 years subtracting the sabbaths, to six years and 84 days.

(e.) The new moons. The Jewish year had twelve, Josephus tells us that the Jews always kept two days for the new moon. See Calmet on the Jewish Calender, and Horne's Introduction, also 1 Sam. xx. 18, 19, 27. This would amount in 42 years, to two years 280 days, after the necessary substractions.

(f.) The feast of trumpets.-On the first day of the seventh month, and of the civil year.-Lev. xxiii. 24, 25.

(g.) The day of atonement. On the tenth of the seventh month.-Lev. xxiii. 27-32.

These two last feasts would both consume not less than 65 days of time not otherwise reckoned.

Thus it appears that those persons who continued servants during the whole period between the jubilees, were by law released from their labour, TWENTY-THREE YEARS AND SIXTYFOUR DAYS, OUT OF FIFTY YEARS, and those who remained a less time in the same proportion. It will be perceived that in the calculation besides making a generous donation of all the fractions to the pro-slavery advocates, we have left entirely out of the account, those numerous local festivals to which frequent allusion is made, as in Judges xxi. 19. 1 Sam. 9th Chapter. And the various family festivals, such as at the weaning of children; at marriages; at sheep shearings; at the making of covenants, &c. to which reference is often made, as in 1st Sam. xx. 28, 29. Neither have we included those memorable festivals instituted at a later period of the Jewish history. The feast of Purim, Esther, ix. 28, 29.

And the feast of the Dedication, which lasted eight days. John x. 22. 1 Mac. iv. 59.

Finally, the Mosaic system secured to all servants, an amount of time, which if distributed would on an average be nearly ONE HALF OF THE DAYS IN EACH YEAR, for the purposes of rest, and mental and moral improvement. Meanwhile they and their families were supported and furnished with opportunities of instruction. If this amount of time were distributed over every day, the case would stand thus: the servants would have to themselves all but a fraction of ONE HALF OF THE DAY, and would labor for their masters the remaining fraction and the other half of the day.


5. The servant was protected by law equally with the other members of the community: His life, person, property, reputation, conscience, and all his natural rights were in the eyes of the law as sacred, as those of his master.

Proof" Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his neighbour and THE STRANGER THAT IS WITH HIM." "Ye shall not RESPECT PERSONS in judgment, but ye shall hear the SMALL as well as the great." Deut. i. 16, 17. Also in Lev. xxiv. 22. "Ye shall have one manner of law as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country for I am the Lord your God. So Numbers xv. 29. "Ye shall have ONE LAW for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them. Deut. xxvii. 19. Cursed be he that PERVERTETH THE JUDGMENT OF THE STRANGER, the fatherless and the widow.

6. The Mosaic system enjoined upon the Israelites the greatest affection and kindness toward their servants, foreign as well as Jewish.

Lev. xix. 34. The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself. Also Deut. x. 17, 19. For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty and a terrible which REGARDETH NOT PERSONS nor taketh reward, He doth execute the judgment

of the fatherless and widow, and LOVETH THE STRANGER, in giving him food and raiment LOVE YE THEREFORE THE STRANGER, So Exodus xxii. 21. Thou shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress him." Exodus xxiii. 9. "Thou shalt not oppress a stranger for ye know the heart of a stranger." Lev. xxv. 35, 36. "If thy brother be waxen poor thou shalt relieve him, yea, though he be a STRANGER or a sojourner, that he may live with thee, take thou no usury of him or increase, but fear thy God." (What an absurdity to suppose that this same stranger could be taken by one that feared his God, and held as a slave forced to labor, and robbed of time, earnings, and all his rights.)

7. Servants were placed upon a level with their masters in all civil and religious rights. Without quoting passages at length the reader is referred to the following in proof. Numb. xv. 15, 16, 29. Numb. ix. 14. Deut. i. 16, 17. Lev. xxiv. 22.

We now proceed to the third subject of inquiry.


We argue that it was a voluntary condition.

1. Because to become a servant in the family of an Israelite, was to abjure idolatry, to enter into covenant with God* to be circumcised in token of it, to be bound to the

Maimonides who wrote in Egypt about seven hundred years ago, a cotemporary with Jarchi, and who stands with him at the head of Jewish commentators gives the following testimony on this point.

"Whether a servant be born in the power of an Israelite, or whether he be purchased from the heathen, the master is to bring them both into the covenant.

"But he that is in the house is entered on the eighth day, and he that is bought with money, on the day on which the master receives him, unless the slave be unwilling.

"For if the master receive a grown 'slave and he be unwilling, his master is to bear with him, to seek to win him over by instruction, and by love, and kindness for one year. After which, should he refuse so long, it is forbidden to keep him, longer than a year.

"And the master must send him back to the strangers from whence he came. For the God of Jacob will not accept any other than the worship of a willing heart."-Maimon. Hilcoth, Miloth, Chap. 1st, Sec. 8th.

The ancient Jewish Doctors agree in the testimony, that the servant from the strangers who at the close of his probationary year, still refused to adopt the religion of the Mosaic system, and was on that account cut off from the family, and sent back to his own people, received a full compensation for his services, besides the payment of his expenses. But that postponement of the circumcision of the

« PreviousContinue »