Smith's Bible Dictionary 
Slave. The institution of slavery was recognized, though not established, by the Mosaic law, with a view to mitigate its hardship and to secure to every man his ordinary rights.
I. Hebrew slaves. - The circumstances under which a Hebrew might be reduced to servitude were -
(2) the commission of theft; and
(3) the exercise of paternal authority.
(1) In the first case [poverty], a man who had mortgaged his property, and was unable to support his family, might sell himself to another Hebrew, with a view both to obtain maintenance, and, perchance, a surplus sufficient to redeem his property. Leviticus 25:25; Leviticus 25:39.
(2) The Commission Of Theft rendered a person liable to servitude, whenever restitution could not be made on the scale prescribed by the law. Exodus 22:1; Exodus 22:3. The thief was bound to work out the value of his restitution money, in the service of him on whom the theft had been committed.
(3) The Exercise Of Paternal Authority was limited to the sale of a daughter of tender age to be a maidservant, with the ulterior view of her becoming the concubine of the purchaser. Exodus 21:7.
The servitude of a Hebrew might be terminated in three ways:
(1) by the satisfaction or the remission of all claims against him;
(2) by the recurrence of the Year of Jubilee , Leviticus 25:40, and
(3) the expiration of six years from the time that his servitude commenced. Exodus 21:2; Exodus 15:12.
(4) To the above modes of obtaining liberty, the rabbinists added, as a fourth, the death of the master without leaving a son, there being no power of claiming the slave, on the part of any heir except a son.
If a servant did not desire to avail himself of the opportunity of leaving his service, he was to signify his intention, in a formal manner, before the judges, (or more exactly, At The Place Of Judgment ), and then the master was to take him to the door-post, and to bore his ear through with an awl, Exodus 21:6, driving the awl into or "unto the door," as stated in Deuteronomy 15:17, and, thus, fixing the servant to it. A servant who had submitted to this operation remained, according to the words of the law, a servant "forever." [In Other Words, He Became A "Bond-Servant", Or A doulos . Exodus 21:6. These words are however, interpreted by Josephus and by the rabbinsts as meaning until the Year of Jubilee .
The condition of a Hebrew servant was by no means intolerable. His master was admonished to treat him, not "as a bond-servant, but as an hired servant and as a sojourner," and, again, "not to rule over him with rigor." Leviticus 25:39-40; Leviticus 25:43. At the termination of his servitude, the master was enjoined not to "let him go away empty," but to remunerate him liberally out of his flock, his floor and his wine-press. Deuteronomy 15:13-14.
In the event of a Hebrew becoming the servant of a "stranger," meaning a non-Hebrew, the servitude could be terminated only in two ways, namely, by the arrival of the Year of Jubilee , or by the repayment to the master of the purchase money paid for the servant, after deducting a sum for the value of his services proportioned to the length of his servitude. Leviticus 25:47-55.
A Hebrew woman might enter into voluntary servitude on the score of poverty, and in this case, she was entitled to her freedom after six years service, together with her usual gratuity at leaving, just as in the case of a man. Deuteronomy 15:12-13. Thus far, we have seen little that is objectionable in the condition of Hebrew servants. In respect to marriage, there were some peculiarities which, to our ideas, would be regarded as hardships. A master might, for instance, give a wife to a Hebrew servant for the time of his servitude, the wife being, in this case, it must be remarked, not only a slave, but a non-Hebrew. Should he leave when his term had expired, his wife and children would remain the absolute property of the master. Exodus 21:4-5.
Again, a father might sell his young daughter to a Hebrew, with a view either of marrying her himself, or of giving her to his son. Exodus 21:7-9. It diminishes the apparent harshness of this proceeding, if we look on the purchase money as in the light of a dowry given, as was not unusual, to the parents of the bride; still more, if we accept the rabbinical view that the consent of the maid was required before the marriage could take place. The position of a maiden thus sold by her father was subject to the following regulations:
(1) She could not "go out as the men-servants do," that is, she could not leave at the termination of six years, or in the Year of Jubilee , if her master was willing to fulfill the object, for which he had purchased her.
(2) Should he not wish to marry her, he should call upon her friends to procure her release, by the repayment of the purchase money.
(3) If he betrothed her to his son, he was bound to make such provision for her as he would for one of his own daughters.
(4) If either he or his son, having married her, took a second wife, it should not be to the prejudice of the first.
(5) If neither of the three first specified alternatives took place, the maid was entitled to immediate and gratuitous liberty. Exodus 21:7-11.
The custom of reducing Hebrews to servitude appears to have fallen into disuse, subsequent to the Babylonish captivity. Vast numbers of Hebrews were reduced to slavery as war-captives, at different periods, by the Phoenicians, Joel 3:6, the Philistines, Joel 3:6; Amos 1:6, the Syrians, 1 Maccabees 3:42; 2 Maccabees 8:11, the Egyptians, Joseph Ant. Xii. 2,3, and, above all, by the Romans. Joseph. B.C. vi. 9,3.
II. Non-Hebrew slaves. - The majority of non-Hebrew slaves were war-captives, either of the Canaanites, who had survived the general extermination of their race under Joshua, or such as were conquered from the other surrounding nations. Numbers 31:26; ff. Besides these, many were obtained by purchase from foreign slave-dealers, Leviticus 25:44-45, and others may have been resident foreigners, who were reduced to this state by either poverty or crime.
The children of slaves remained slaves, being the class described as "born in the house," Genesis 14:14; Genesis 17:12; Ecclesiastes 2:7, and, hence, the number was likely to increase as time went on. The average value of a slave appears to have been thirty shekels. Exodus 21:32. That the slave might be manumitted [Released from slavery.] appears from Exodus 21:26-27; Leviticus 19:20.
The slave is described as the "possession" of his master, apparently with a special reference to the power, which the latter had of disposing of him to his heirs, as he would any other article of personal property. Leviticus 25:45-46. But, on the other hand, provision was made for the protection of his person. Exodus 21:20; Leviticus 24:17; Leviticus 24:22. A minor personal injury, such as the loss of an eye or a tooth, was to be recompensed by giving the servant his liberty. Exodus 21:26-27.
The position of the slave in regard to religious privileges was favorable. He was to be circumcised, Genesis 17:12 and, hence, was entitled to partake of the Paschal Sacrifice , Exodus 12:44, as well as of the other religious festivals. Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14. The occupations of slaves were of a menial character, as implied in Leviticus 25:39, consisting, partly, in the work of the house, and, partly, in personal attendance on the master. It will be seen that the whole tendency of the Bible legislation was to mitigate slavery, making it little than hired service, and to abolish it, as indeed, it was practically abolished among the Jews six hundred years before Christ .
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary 
Slavery was well established throughout the ancient world long before Israel formally became a nation ( Genesis 15:2-3; Genesis 16:1-2; Genesis 17:12; Genesis 30:1-3). Israelite law recognized the evils of slavery, but it also recognized that slavery had for so long been part of society that it could not be removed quickly or easily.
The law given to Israel at Sinai was not a program for the ideal society, but a legal system designed to maintain order and administer justice among a people whose way of life was already well established. Nevertheless, it introduced values of human dignity that undermined the foundations on which slavery was built, and so started the process that led eventually to its removal.
Old Testament regulations
Unlike slaves in other countries, Israelite slaves had rights. They were given one full day’s rest each week ( Exodus 20:10) and were protected against unjust treatment. If they suffered brutal punishment, they received compensation by being set free ( Exodus 21:26-27).
Israelite slaves could be held captive no more than six years ( Exodus 21:1-2; Deuteronomy 15:12). When they went out free, the master had to give them sufficient goods to enable them to begin a new life satisfactorily ( Deuteronomy 15:13-14). If a male slave had obtained a wife from among his fellow slaves, she was not automatically released with him. However, he could, if he wished, continue to work for the master and so keep his family together ( Exodus 21:3-6).
A female slave who had become a wife or concubine of the master (or his son) was not freed after six years; but neither could her master sell her to a foreigner if he no longer wanted her. If her family did not buy her back, her husband-master had to continue to look after her in accordance with her rights as his wife. If he failed to do this, he had to set her free ( Exodus 21:7-11).
Israelites were not to take fellow Israelites as slaves in payment for debts, and were to buy back any of their relatives who had sold themselves to foreigners in payment for debts ( Leviticus 25:39-41; Leviticus 25:47-49). Kidnapping for slavery was an offence that carried the death penalty ( Deuteronomy 24:7), and the practice of returning runaway slaves to their masters was prohibited ( Deuteronomy 23:15-16). International slave trading was condemned ( Ezekiel 27:13; Joel 3:4-8; Amos 1:6; Amos 1:9; cf. Revelation 18:13).
Most slaves in Israel were either descendants of the former inhabitants of the land or people taken captive in war ( Leviticus 25:44-45; Numbers 31:9; Joshua 9:21; 2 Samuel 12:31; 1 Kings 9:20-21). Yet these slaves also had rights ( Deuteronomy 21:10-14). They could even join in the full religious life of Israel, provided they had formally become part of the covenant people through the rite of circumcision ( Exodus 12:44; Deuteronomy 16:14).
All these restrictions helped to decrease the practice of slavery in Israel. But the process was much slower than it should have been, mainly because people of power and influence ignored the law. This was particularly so among corrupt officials and ruthless money-lenders ( 2 Kings 4:1; Nehemiah 5:5; Amos 2:6; see Lending ).
Some New Testament examples
In the Roman Empire of New Testament times slavery was widespread. Even Jews had slaves among their people, though their treatment of slaves was usually better than that of non-Jewish peoples ( Matthew 13:27; Matthew 24:45; Matthew 25:14; Matthew 26:51; see also Steward ).
As a result of the missionary expansion of the church, many slaves became Christians. In churches as well as households there were Christian slaves and Christian masters. Though Christian slaves were equal with their Christian masters in their standing before God ( Acts 2:18; Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 7:22), they were not equal in their standing in society. Christian slaves and their Christian masters were not to take advantage of each other, but cooperate for their common good ( Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; see Master ).
By encouraging Christian slaves to work with responsibility and dignity, Christianity helped to raise the status of slaves. They were not to think of themselves merely as tools of their masters ( Colossians 3:22; Titus 2:9). They could use their positions as slaves to serve God, but if they got the opportunity to go free, they were advised to take it ( 1 Corinthians 7:20-21). Paul hoped that Christian masters would give Christian slaves their freedom, but he did not use his apostolic authority to force them to do so (Philem 8-10,14,21).
Relation to God
God’s people of the Old Testament era sometimes likened their relation to God to that of a slave to his master. This applied to individuals ( Exodus 4:10; Numbers 12:7; Psalms 19:13; Jeremiah 7:25) and to the nation as a whole ( Judges 2:7; Isaiah 41:8).
Although such a relationship indicated the submissive place of God’s people ( Deuteronomy 6:13-14; Deuteronomy 10:12-13), it did not indicate shame or humiliation in their status. The word translated ‘slave’ often had the more general meaning of ‘servant’. When referring to God’s specially chosen ones, it indicated a position of honour ( Psalms 89:3; Isaiah 44:21). The same ideas are present in the New Testament, which speaks of Christians as God’s slaves or servants ( Matthew 6:24; Matthew 10:24; Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10). (For further discussion concerning God’s people as servants see Servant .)
Those who are true slaves of Jesus Christ will also be true slaves of one another ( Matthew 20:26-27; John 13:4-15; 1 Corinthians 9:19; 2 Corinthians 4:5). This is because of the new life they have through Jesus Christ ( Galatians 5:13; Philippians 2:5-7). Formerly they were slaves to sin ( John 8:34; Galatians 4:8; Titus 3:3), but Christ has set them free from that bondage and now they are slaves of righteousness ( Romans 6:16-19; Galatians 5:1; see Redemption ). (Concerning freedom from bondage to the law see Freedom ; Law .)
Fausset's Bible Dictionary 
Hired service was little known anciently; slavery was the common form of service. But among the Hebrew the bond service was of a mild and equitable character; so much so that Ebed , "servant," is not restricted to the bond servant, but applies to higher relations, as, e.,g., the king's prime minister, a rich man's steward, as Eliezer ( Genesis 15:2; Genesis 24:2), God's servant ( Daniel 9:17). Bond service was not introduced by Moses, but being found in existence was regulated by laws mitigating its evils and restricting its duration. Man stealing was a capital crime ( Deuteronomy 24:7); not only stealing Israelites, but people of other nations ( Exodus 21:16). The Mosaic law jealously guarded human life and liberty as sacred. Masters must treat Hebrew servants as hired servants, not with rigour, but with courteous considerateness as brethren, and liberally remunerate them at the close of their service ( Deuteronomy 15:12-18; Leviticus 25:39-41). Exodus 21:2 provided that no Israelite bound to service could be forced to continue in it more than six years.
Leviticus supplements this by giving every Hebrew the right to claim freedom for himself and family in the Jubilee year, without respect to period of service, and to recover his land. This was a cheek on the oppression of the rich ( Jeremiah 34:8-17). Property in foreign slaves might be handed down from father to son, so too the children born in the house ( Genesis 14:14; Genesis 17:12). Some were war captives ( Numbers 31:6-7; Numbers 31:9; Deuteronomy 20:14); but Israelites must not reduce to bondage Israelites taken in war ( 2 Chronicles 28:8-15). The monuments give many illustrations of the state of the Israelites themselves reduced to bondage by foreign kings to whom they were delivered for their rebellion. Others were enslaved for crime ( Exodus 22:3 , Like Our Penal Servitude) , or bought from foreign slave dealers ( Leviticus 25:44), so they were his property ( Exodus 21:21). The price was about 30 or 40 shekels ( Exodus 21:32; Leviticus 27:3-4; Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 26:15).
The slave was encouraged to become a "proselyte" ( Doulos ) ( Exodus 12:44). He might be set free ( Exodus 21:3; Exodus 21:20-21; Exodus 21:26-27). The law guarded his life and limbs. If a married man became a bondman, his rights to his wife were respected, she going out with him after six years' service. If as single he accepted a wife from his master, and she bore him children, she and they remained the master's, and he alone went out, unless from love to his master and his wife and children he preferred staying ( Exodus 21:6); then the master bored his ear (The Member Symbolizing Willing Obedience, As The Phrase "Give Ear" Implies) with an awl, and he served for ever, i.e. until Jubilee year ( Leviticus 25:10; Deuteronomy 15:17); type of the Father's willing Servant for man's sake (compare Isaiah 50:5; Psalms 40:6-8; Hebrews 10:5; Philippians 2:7).
A Hebrew sold to a stranger sojourning in Israel did not go out after six years, but did at the year of Jubilee; meantime he might be freed by himself or a kinsman paying a ransom, the object of the law being to stir up friends to help the distressed relative. His brethren should see that he suffered no undue rigour, but was treated as a yearly hired servant ( Leviticus 25:47-55). Even the foreigner, when enslaved, if his master caused his loss of an eye or tooth, could claim freedom ( Exodus 21:6; Leviticus 19:20). He might be ransomed. At last he was freed at Jubilee. His murder was punished by death ( Leviticus 24:17; Leviticus 24:22; Numbers 35:31-33). He was admitted to the spiritual privileges of Israel: circumcision ( Genesis 17:12), the great feasts, Passover, etc. ( Exodus 12:43; Deuteronomy 16:10; Deuteronomy 29:10-13; Deuteronomy 31:12), the hearing of the law, the Sabbath and Jubilee rests. The receiver of a fugitive slave was not to deliver him up ( Deuteronomy 23:15-16).
Christianity does not begin by opposing the external system prevailing, but plants the seeds of love, universal brotherhood in Christ, communion of all in one redemption from God our common Father, which silently and surely undermines slavery. Paul's sending back Onesimus to Philemon does not sanction slavery as a compulsory system, for Onesimus went back of his own free will to a master whom Christianity had made into a brother. In 1 Corinthians 7:21-24 Paul exhorts slaves not to be unduly impatient to cast off even slavery by unlawful means ( 1 Peter 2:13-18), as Onesimus did by fleeing. The precept (Greek) "become not ye slaves of men" implies that slavery is abnormal ( Leviticus 25:42). "If called, being a slave, to Christianity, be content; but yet, if also (Besides Spiritual Freedom) thou canst be free (Bodily, A Still Additional Good, Which If Thou Canst Not Attain Be Satisfied Without, But Which If Offered Despise Not) , use the opportunity of becoming free rather than remain a slave." "Use it" in verse 23 (?) refers to freedom, implied in the words just before, "be made free" ( 2 Peter 2:19).
Webster's Dictionary 
(1): ( n.) An abject person; a wretch.
(2): ( n.) A person who is held in bondage to another; one who is wholly subject to the will of another; one who is held as a chattel; one who has no freedom of action, but whose person and services are wholly under the control of another.
(3): ( n.) One who has lost the power of resistance; one who surrenders himself to any power whatever; as, a slave to passion, to lust, to strong drink, to ambition.
(4): ( v. i.) To drudge; to toil; to labor as a slave.
(5): ( n.) A drudge; one who labors like a slave.
(6): ( n.) See Slav.
(7): ( v. t.) To enslave.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words 
"a body," is translated "slaves" in Revelation 18:13 (RV and AV marg., "bodies"), an intimation of the unrighteous control over the bodily activities of "slaves;" the next word "souls" stands for the whole being. See Body.
King James Dictionary 
1. A person who is wholly subject to the will of another one who has no will of his own, but whose person and services are wholly under the control of another. In the early state of the world, and to this day among some barbarous nations, prisoners of war are considered and treated as slaves. The slaves of modern times are more generally purchased, like horses and oxen. 2. One who has lost the poser of resistance or one who surrenders himself to any power whatever as a slave to passion, to lust, to ambition. 3. A mean person one in the lowest state of life. 4. A drudge one who labors like a slave.
SLAVE, To drudge to toil to labor as a slave.
Easton's Bible Dictionary 
Jeremiah 2:14 Revelation 18:13 Exodus 21:20,21,26,27 Leviticus 25:44-46 Joshua 9:6-27
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary 
Jeremiah 2:14; Revelation 18:13 . See Servant .
People's Dictionary of the Bible 
Slave. See Servant.
Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary 
See Servant .
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature 
Slave (Auth. Eng. Version, servant and bondman). It is difficult to trace the origin of slavery. It may have existed before the deluge, when violence filled the earth, and drew upon it the vengeance of God. But the first direct reference to slavery, or rather slave-trading, in the Bible, is found in the history of Joseph, who was sold by his brethren to the Ishmaelites . In , we find a reference to the slave-trade carried on with Tyre by Javan, Tubal, and Meshech. And in the Apocalypse we find enumerated in the merchandise of the mystic Babylon, slaves and the souls of men .
The sacred historians refer to various kinds of bondage:—
1. Patriarchal Servitude—The exact nature of this service cannot be defined: there can be no doubt, however, that it was regulated by principles of justice, equity, and kindness. The servants of the patriarchs were of two kinds, those 'born in the house,' and those 'bought with money' . The servants born in the house were perhaps entitled to greater privileges than the others. Eliezer of Damascus, a home-born servant, was Abraham's steward, and, in default of issue, would have been his heir . This class of servants was honored with the most intimate confidence of their masters, and was employed in the most important services. An instance of this kind will be found in , where the eldest or chief servant of Abraham's house, who ruled over all that he had, was sent to Mesopotamia to select a wife for Isaac, who was then forty years of age. The servants of Abraham were admitted into the same religious privileges with their master, and received the seal of the covenant .
There is a clear distinction made between the 'servants' of Abraham and the things which constituted his property or wealth. Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold; ). But when the patriarch's power or greatness is spoken of, then servants are spoken of as well as the objects which constituted his riches . A similar distinction is made in the case of Isaac and of Jacob. In no single instance do we find that the patriarchs either gave away or sold their servants, or purchased them of third persons. Abraham had servants 'bought with money.' It has been assumed that they were bought of third parties, whereas there is no proof that this was the case. The probability is that they sold themselves to the patriarch for an equivalent; that is to say, they entered into voluntary engagements to serve him for a longer or shorter period of time, in return for the money advanced them. Probably Job had more servants than either of the patriarchs to whom reference has been made . In what light he regarded, and how he treated his servants, may be gathered from . And that Abraham acted in the same spirit, we have the Divine testimony in , where his conduct is placed in direct contrast with that of some of his descendants who used their neighbor's service without wages, and gave him not for his work .
2. Egyptian Bondage.—The Israelites were frequently reminded, after their exode from Egypt, of the oppressions they endured in that 'house of bondage,' from which they had been delivered by the direct interposition of God. The design of these admonitions was to teach them justice and kindness towards their servants when they should become settled in Canaan, as well as to impress them with gratitude towards their great deliverer. The Egyptians had domestic servants, who may have been slaves (;; ). But the Israelites were not dispersed among the families of Egypt; they formed a special community. They had exclusive possession of the land of Goshen, 'the best part of the land of Egypt.' They lived in permanent dwellings, their own houses, and not in tents. Each family seems to have had its own house; and judging from the regulations about eating the Passover, they could scarcely have been small ones. They appear to have been well clothed. They owned 'flocks and herds, and very much cattle.' They had their own form of government; and, although occupying a province of Egypt, and tributary to it, they preserved their tribes and family divisions, and their internal organization throughout. They had to a considerable degree the disposal of their own time. They were not unacquainted with the fine arts. They were all armed. The women seem to have known something of domestic refinement. They were familiar with instruments of music, and skilled in the working of fine fabrics; and both males and females were able to read and write. Their food was abundant and of great variety. The service required from the Israelites by their task-masters seems to have been exacted from males only, and probably a portion only of the people were compelled to labor at any one time. As tributaries, they probably supplied levies of men, from which the wealthy appear to have been exempted. The poor were the oppressed; 'and all the service wherewith they made them serve was with rigor.' But Jehovah saw their 'afflictions and heard their groanings,' and delivered them, after having inflicted the most terrible plagues on their oppressors.
3. Jewish Servitude.—Whatever difficulties may be found in indicating the precise nature of patriarchal servitude, none exists in reference to that which was sanctioned and regulated by the Mosaic institutes.
The moral law is a revelation of great principles. It requires supreme love to God and universal love among men; and whatever is incompatible with the exercise of that love, is strictly forbidden and condemned. Hence, immediately after the giving of the law at Sinai, as if to guard against all slavery and slave-trading on the part of the Israelites, God promulgated this ordinance: 'He that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hands, he shall surely be put to death' . The crime is stated in its threefold form, man-stealing, selling, and holding; the penalty for either of which was death. The law punished the stealing of mere property by enforcing restitution, in some cases twofold, in others fivefold . When property was stolen, the legal penalty was compensation to the person injured; but when a man was stolen, no property compensation was allowed; death was inflicted, and the guilty offender paid the forfeit of his life for his transgression. Such was the operation of this law, and the obedience paid to it, that we have not the remotest hint that the sale and purchase of slaves ever occurred among the Israelites. The cities of Judea were not, like the cities of Greece and Rome, slave-markets; nor were there found throughout all its coasts either helots or slaves. With the Israelites, service was either voluntary, or judicially imposed by the law of God (;;;; ). Strangers only, or the descendants of strangers, became their possession by purchase but, however acquired, the law gave the Jewish servants many rights and privileges; they were admitted into covenant with God; they were guests at all the national and family festivals; they were statedly instructed in morals and religion; and they were released from their regular labor nearly one-half of their term of servitude. The servants of the Israelites were protected by the law equally with their masters; and their civil and religious rights were the same. Finally, these servants had the power of changing their masters, and of seeking protection where they pleased and should their masters, by any act of violence, injure their persons, they were released from their engagements . The term of Hebrew servitude was six years, beyond which they could not be held unless they entered into new engagements ; while that of strangers, over whom the rights of the master were comparatively absolute , terminated in every case on the return of the jubilee, when liberty was proclaimed to all (;; ).
4. Gibeonitish Servitude.—The condition of the inhabitants of Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjath-jearim, under the Hebrew commonwealth, was not that of slavery. It was voluntary . They were not employed in the families of the Israelites, but resided in their own cities, tended their own flocks and herds, and exercised the functions of a distinct though not independent community . The injuries inflicted on them by Saul were avenged by the Almighty on his descendants . They appear to have been devoted exclusively to the service of the 'house of God' or the Tabernacles, and only a few of them comparatively could have been engaged at any one time. The rest dwelt in their cities, one of which was a great city, as one of the royal cities. The service they rendered may be regarded as a natural tribute for the privilege of protection. No service seems to have been required of their wives and daughters.
The laws which the great Deliverer and Redeemer of mankind gave for the government of his kingdom, were those of universal justice and benevolence, and as such were subversive of every system of tyranny and oppression. To suppose, therefore, as has been rashly asserted, that Jesus or his Apostles gave their sanction to the existing systems of slavery among the Greeks and Romans, is to dishonor them. That the reciprocal duties of masters and servants were inculcated, admits, indeed, of no doubt (;;;; ). But the performance of these duties on the part of the masters, supposing them to have been slave-masters, would have been tantamount to the utter subversion of the relation. There can be no doubt either that 'servants under the yoke,' or the slaves of heathens, are exhorted to yield obedience to their masters . But this argues no approval of the relation; for, 1. Jesus, in an analogous case, appeals to the paramount law of nature as superseding such temporary regulations as the 'hardness of men's hearts' had rendered necessary; and, 2. St. Paul, while counseling the duties of contentment and submission under inevitable bondage, inculcates at the same time on the slave the duty of adopting all legitimate means of obtaining his freedom .
5. Roman Slavery.—Our limits will not allow us to enter into detail on the only kind of slavery referred to in the New Testament, for there is no indication that the Jews possessed any slaves in the time of Christ. Suffice it therefore to say, that, in addition to the fact that Roman slavery was perpetual and hereditary, the slave had no protection whatever against the avarice, rage, or lust of his master. The bondsman was viewed less as a human being, subject to arbitrary dominion, than as an inferior animal, dependent wholly on the will of his owner. The master possessed the uncontrolled power of life and death over his slave—a power which continued at least to the time of the emperor Hadrian. He might, and frequently did, kill, mutilate, and torture his slaves, for any or for no offence; so that slaves were sometimes crucified from mere caprice. He might force them to become prostitutes or gladiators; and, instead of the perpetual obligation of the marriage tie, their temporary unions were formed and dissolved at his command, families and friends were separated, and no obligation existed to provide for their wants in sickness or in health. But, notwithstanding all the barbarous cruelties of Roman slavery, it had one decided advantage over that which was introduced in modern times into European colonies, both law and custom being decidedly favorable to the freedom of the slave. The Muhammadan law also, in this respect, contrasts favorably with those of the European settlements.
Although the condition of the Roman slaves was no doubt improved under the emperors, the early effects of Christian principles were manifest in mitigating the horrors, and bringing about the gradual abolition of slavery. 'It is not,' says Robertson, 'the authority of any single detached precept in the Gospel, but the spirit and genius of the Christian religion, more powerful than any particular command, which has abolished the practice of slavery throughout the world.' Although, even in the most corrupt times of the church, the operation of Christian principles tended to this benevolent object, they unfortunately did not prevent the revival of slavery in the European settlements in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, together with that nefarious traffic, the suppression of which has rendered the name of Wilberforce forever illustrious. Modern servitude had all the characteristic evils of the Roman, except, perhaps, the uncontrolled power of life and death, while it was destitute of that redeeming quality to which we have referred, its tendency being to perpetuate the condition of slavery. It has also been supposed to have introduced the unfortunate prejudice of color, which was unknown to the ancients. It was the benevolent wish of the philosophic Herder that the time might come 'when we shall look back with as much compassion on our inhuman traffic in negroes, as on the ancient Roman slavery or Spartan helots.' This is now no longer a hope, so far as England is concerned, as she not only set the example of abolishing the traffic, but evinced the soundness of her Christian principles by the greatest national act of justice which history has yet recorded, in the total abolition of slavery throughout all her dependencies.
- Slave from Smith's Bible Dictionary
- Slave from Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
- Slave from Fausset's Bible Dictionary
- Slave from Webster's Dictionary
- Slave from Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words
- Slave from King James Dictionary
- Slave from Easton's Bible Dictionary
- Slave from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
- Slave from People's Dictionary of the Bible
- Slave from Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
- Slave from Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature