What is the servant owed?

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What happens when a servant comes to a master? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I wrote about how marriage was treated differently in the Old Testament. In this instance, we’re going to be discussing it with slavery in the Old Testament. It needs to be said that in this society, slavery was largely a willing institution where people gave of themselves to provide for them and their families. It was also not based on race.

So in Exodus 21, the question comes of a man who sells himself to his neighbor in order to provide for himself. Now if a man comes and he has a wife with him, then when his term is done with his master, then he is to go free and his wife is to come with him. However, what if he comes and he does not have a wife?

His master could provide one for him. This means that the master is giving of himself what he has and letting his servant partake of that gift. After all, a wife isn’t necessary to someone doing their job for the most part. How many of us when we go to work for an employer today discuss with the employer if they will provide a spouse for us or not?

In this scenario, when the man leaves then, his wife and children are not to go with him. The master will provide for all of them. However, there is an exemption to this. The servant can say that he loves his wife and his children and doesn’t want to lose them so he can become a servant for his master for life, which, if the wife was the master’s daughter, would essentially make him a son-in-law entirely and part of the family.

Note also that this indicates love was not really the norm in the time. Marriage was not done so much for love as it was done for survival. However, it would certainly be hoped that a marriage would make someone into a more loving person. In this case, it did.

The servant has no right to claim on his own what is his and what isn’t. He has been working for the master for years, likely had room and board provided, and the master doesn’t owe the servant anything else, including a spouse. If a master gives, that is a gift and the servant can choose how he wants to respond.

For those concerned about the idea of slavery in these passages, there are plenty of resources to go to on this one. I recommend this excellent article from the Christian-thinktank. I also recommend this video series on Scripture and Slavery. For now, I am looking at marriage and I don’t want to get diverted into a whole other series.

This time, we looked at the case of a man going into slavery. Next we’ll be looking at what happens when a man sells his daughter into slavery. That will hopefully be on Monday barring anything else that needs to be said. See you then.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)