Page images

of all sorts was given and held in pledge. We find in various parts of the Bible household furniture, clothing, oxen, asses, sheep, cattle, money, signets, and personal ornaments, with divers other articles of property used as pledges for value received. But no servants.

(3.) All lost PROPERTY was to be restored. Oxen, asses, sheep, raiment, and "whatever lost things" are specifiedservants not.-Deut, xxii. 13. Besides, the Israelites were expressly forbiddden to take back the runaway servant to his master.-Deut, xxiii. 15.

(4.) The Israelites never gave away their servants as presents, yet their presents had great variety. Lands, asses, oxen, houses, mules, sheep, gold, silver, precious stones, vessels, raiment, ivory, ebony, all kinds of fruit and grain, in large quantities; images, idols, spices, and armor, are but few of the articles specified which were at different times presented to others as gifts. They made presents often, and princely ones. It was a standing usage to give presents to superiors and persons of rank when visiting them, and at other times.-1 Sam. x. 27; 1 Sam. xvi. 20; 2 Chron. xvii. 5. Abraham to Abimelech, Gen. xxi. 27; Jacob to the viceroy of Egypt, Gen. xliii. 11; Joseph to his brethren and father, Gen. xlv. 22, 23; Benhadad to Elisha, 2 Kings viii. 8, 9; Ahaz to Tiglath Pilezer, 2 Kings vi. 8; Solomon to the Queen of Sheba, 1 Kings x. 13; Jeroboam to Ahijah, 1 Kings xiv. 3; Asa to Benhadad, 1 Kings xv. 18, 19. Besides, giving servants, was a prevailing fashion in the surrounding nations. -Gen. xii. 16; Gen. xx. 14.

OBJECTION 1. Laban GAVE handmaids to his daughters, Jacob's wives. Without enlarging on the nature of the polygamy then prevalent, it is enough to say that the handmaids of wives, at that time, were themselves regarded as wives, though of inferior dignity and authority. That Jacob regarded his handmaids in that light, is proved by his curse upon Reuben, (Gen. xlix. 4, and 1 Chron. v. 1,) also by the perfect equality of their children with those of Rachel and Leah. But if it had been otherwise, and Laban had given them as articles of property, then, indeed, the example of this "good old patriarch and slaveholder," Saint Laban, would have been a fore-closer to all argument,

Ah! we remember his jealousy for religion-his holy indignation when he found that his "GODS" were stolen ! How he mustered his clan, and plunged over the desert in hot pursuit, seven days, by forced marches; how he ransacked a whole caravan, sifting the contents of every tent, little heeding such small matters as domestic privacy, or female seclusion, for lo! the zeal of his "IMAGES" had eaten him up!

No wonder that slavery, in its Bible-navigation, drifting dismantled before the free gusts, should scud under the lee of such an ancient and pious worthy to haul up and refit; claiming his protection, and invoking the benediction of his "GODS!"

OBJECTION 2. "Servants were enumerated in inventories of property." Hence it is inferred that servants were the property of their masters. They were included among houses, camels, asses, oxen, sheep, raiment, silver, gold, and all sorts of goods and chattels. But if that proves them property, it proves wives property. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not COVET thy neighbor's WIFE, nor his man-servant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's."-Exod. xx. 17. This is done too in a legal code, a compend of universal rules, where we should expect to find, if any where, the conjunction of things that belong together. Further, an examination of all the places in which servants are included among beasts, chattels, &c., will show that where there is an inventory of mere property, servants are not included, or if included, it is in such a way as to show that they are not regarded in the light of property.-Eccl. ii. 7,8. But when the design is to show, not merely the wealth but the greatness of any personage, that he is a man of distinction, and sway, a ruler, a prince, his servants are spoken of as well as his property. In a word, if riches alone are spoken of no mention is made of servants; if greatness, servants and property. Gen. xiii. 2. "And Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold." No mention is made of servants. So in the fifth verse Lot's riches are enumerated, "And Lot also had flocks, and herds, and tents." In the seventh verse servants are mentioned, "And there was a strife between the HERDMEN of Abraham's cattle

and the HERDMEN of Lot's cattle." For additional illustrations see Josh. xxii. 8; Gen. xxxiv. 23; Job. xlii. 12; 2 Chron. xxi. 3; xxxii. 27-29; Job. i. 3—5; Deut. viii. 12-17; Gen. xxiv. 35, and xxvi. 13, and xxx. 43.

Divers facts dropped in accidentally corroborate this idea, and show that when servants are mentioned in connection with property, it is in such a way as to distinguish them from it. When Jacob was about to leave Laban his wives say to him, "All the riches which thou hast taken from our father, that is ours and our children's." Then follows an inventory of property. "All his cattle," "all his goods," "the cattle of his getting," &c. He had a large number of servants at the time, but they ARE not included among his goods and property. Compare Gen. xxx. 43, with Gen. xxxi. 16-18.

A few days afterwards, when he sent messengers to advertise Esau of his approach, in order to secure his respect, and impress him with an idea of his state and sway, he told them to inform him not only of his RICHES, but of his GREATNESS.-Gen. xxxii. 4, 5. They were to tell Esau that Jacob had "oxen, and asses, and flocks, and men-servants, and maid-servants."

Yet in the present which he sent there were no servants; though he seems to have labored to give as much variety to it as possible.-Gen. xxxii. 14, 15; see also Gen. xxxvi. 6,7; Gen. xxxiv. 23. As flocks and herds were the staples of wealth at that period, a large number of servants in the household of a patriarch presupposed very large possessions of cattle, the tending of which would require many herdsmen. It is also worthy of notice that when servants are spoken of in connection with mere property, those terms in the original which are used to express the latter do not include the former.

The Hebrew word Mickna is an illustration. It is a derivative of Kaunau, to procure, to buy, and its general meaning is a possession, purchase, property. It is most commonly used in the Bible to designate that kind of property called by our farmers "live stock," as flocks, herds, and all descriptions of animals for the use of man. This word is used more than forty times in the Old Testament. In a few instances it includes real estate and goods, but generally things that have life and are owned by man.

We find no instance in which it includes servants, and in some instances they are expressly named in distinction from Mickna.

This principle is illustrated in the account of Abram's migration from Haran to Canaan.-Gen. xii. 5. "And Abraham took Sarah his wife, and Lot his brother's Son. And all their SUBSTANCE that they had gathered. And the souls that they had gotten in Haran, and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan they came." Substance gathered and souls gotten! It is not a little marvellous, since such pains is taken by inspiration to separate the souls from the substance here, that it should be strenuously insisted upon that they constituted a part of the substance. That they were Abram's property-slaves that had probably been taken captive in war, and were now by right of conquest, taken with him in his migration as a part of his family effects. Who but slaveholders, either actually, or in heart, could ever dream that the expression, "the souls that they had gotten" contained the principle of slavery, and described the practice.

What more humiliating than that perversion, of the mind of the church, produced by its contact with slavery ever since the African slave trade breathed its haze upon her vision, and smote her with palsy and decay? Previous to that time, commentators saw no slavery in the expression, "The souls that they had gotten."

In the Targum of Onkelos* it is thus rendered, "The souls whom they had brought to obey the law in Haran." In the Targum of Jonathan thus, "The souls whom they had made proselytes in Haran." In the Targum of Jerusalem, "The souls proselyted in Haran." Jarchi, placed by Jewish Rabbis at the head of their commentators, thus renders it, "The souls whom they had brought under the Divine wings," Jerome, one of the most learned of the

The Targums are Chaldee paraphrases of parts of the Old Testament. The Targum of Onkelos is for the most part, a very accurate and faithful translation of the original, and was probably made at about the commencement of the Christian era. The Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel bears about the same date. The Targum of Jerusalem was probably about 500 years later.

The Israelites during their long captivity in Babylon, lost as a body, their knowledge of their own language. These translations of the Hebrew Scriptures into the Chaldee, the language which they acquired in Babylon, were thus called for by the necessity of the case.

Christian fathers,-"The persons whom he had proselyted." The Persian version thus gives the whole verse, "And Abraham took Sarah his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their wealth which they had accumulated, and the souls which they had made." The Vulgate version thus translates it, "Universam substantiam quam possederant et animas quas fecerant in Haran." "The entire wealth which they possessed, and the souls which they had made." The Syriac thus, "All their possessions which they possessed and the souls which they had made in Haran." The Arabic "All their property which they had acquired, and the souls whom they had made in Haran." The Samaritan version, "All the wealth which they had gathered, and the souls which they had made in Haran." Menochius a commentator who wrote before our present translation of the English Bible, renders it as follows:-Quas de idolotraria. converterunt.”* Those whom they had converted from idolatry."-Paulus Fagius.† "Quas instituerant in religione."--"Those whom they had instructed in religion."— Luke Francke, a German commentator who lived two centuries ago. "Quas legi subjicerant."—" Those whom they had brought to obey the Law."

2. The condition of servants in their masters' families, the affection and respect exercised toward them, the rights and privileges which they shared in common with the chil dren and their recognition as equals, not only by the household, but by persons filling the highest offices of the government-make the doctrine that they were mere ARTICLES and COMMODITIES, an absurdity. The testimony of the Apostle Paul in Gal. iv. 1, gives us an insight into the condition of servants in Hebrew families. "Now I say unto you that the heir so long as he is a child DIFfereth NOTHING FROM A SERVANT, though he be Lord of all."

It has been already shown that the servants of Abraham must have been preeminently voluntary,-it is just as plain that their interests were identified inseparably with those of their master's family-that they were regarded with

See his "Brevis explicatio sensus literalis totius Scripturæ."

+ This eminent Hebrew scholar was invited to England by Cranmer, then Archbishop of Canterbury, to superintend the translation of the Bible into English, under the patronage of Henry the Eighth. He had hardly commenced the work when he died. This was nearly a century before the date of our present translation.

« PreviousContinue »