Does the Bible condone slavery?
The word condone means “to pardon or overlook voluntarily” (Merriam Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary). In that sense, the Bible does not condone it, because it does not overlook the slavery issue. The Bible deals with the matter, but does not advocate starting a revolution over it.
We know that in the beginning, there was not slavery. Genesis 2:20-22 says, “And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and HE TOOK ONE OF HIS RIBS, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.” We find here that God did not make woman from a bone in Adam’s foot, so he could trample over the woman. Nor did God make Eve from a bone in Adam’s head, so that she could rule over Adam. God made her from a rib in his side, so they could be a mutual help to each other.
What brings rulers over us and our children is our own sin. Consider the instance of Canaan and Ham. Genesis 9:18-27 says, “And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread. And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And HAM, THE FATHER OF CANAAN, SAW THE NAKEDNESS OF HIS FATHER, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, CURSED BE CANAAN, A SERVANT OF SERVANTS SHALL HE BE UNTO HIS BRETHREN. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and CANAAN SHALL BE HIS SERVANT. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and CANAAN SHALL BE HIS SERVANT.” It was sin that made Ham and his descendants servants or slaves.
Large government, and people enslaved to it, is a result of sin. Proverbs 28:2 says, “For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof.” The more that a people sin, then the more government officials that is takes to control them.
So the Bible does not condone slavery, but deals with it as a fact of man’s sinfulness. The Bible thus lays down rules as to what to do when there is slavery.
Exodus 21:1-6 says, “Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and IN THE SEVENTH HE SHALL GO OUT FREE for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And IF THE SERVANT SHALL PLAINLY SAY, I LOVE MY MASTER, MY WIFE, AND MY CHILDREN; I WILL NOT GO OUT FREE: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and HE SHALL SERVE HIM FOR EVER.” The children of Israel could not make a fellow Hebrew who owed them a debt a slave for more than seven years. At that time, they had to let them go, unless they asked to stay of their own free will.
The New Testament also gives some instruction on the matter. Ephesians 6:5-9 says, “SERVANTS BE OBEDIENT TO THEM THAT ARE YOUR MASTERS according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. AND, YE MASTERS, DO THE SAME THINGS UNTO THEM, FORBEARING THREATENING: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.” That is what the Holy Spirit had Paul write. He also had Peter write about the matter. I Peter 2:18,19 says, “SERVANTS, BE SUBJECT TO YOUR MASTERS with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.”
I Corinthians 7:21-23 says, “Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but IF THOU MAYEST BE MADE FREE, USE IT RATHER. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” This is not contradicting the other passages on servants, but is just stating a fact — if you can be free, then chose it. A person who is free (not under bondage or contract with man) is then able to serve the Lord more freely.
The Bible is also very clear that a slave who runs away, does not have to be returned to his master (probably because if a slave runs away, then he is being treated improperly by his master). Deuteronomy 23:15,16 says, “THOU SHALT NOT DELIVER UNTO HIS MASTER THE SERVANT WHICH IS ESCAPED FROM HIS MASTER UNTO THEE: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.”
Slavery started because of sin (Ham), and it will continue because of sin. In the Book of Revelation it is still seen. Revelation 13:16,17 says, “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, FREE AND BOND, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
Many people may think that America is free right now, but it is not. John 8:34-36 says, “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, WHOSOEVER COMMITTETH SIN IS THE SERVANT OF SIN. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” America is a slave to sin. Have you repented of your sin and asked Jesus Christ to save you and to set you free from your sin? John 1:12 says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”