The Scriptures can cut sharply, and even be highly offensive. Yet, there is mystery, revelation, and clear truth to be found in the worst of them. When God speaks, He wants to be revealed…even when it doesn’t seem pretty. Have we stopped to really listen to Him in the “ugly verses”? If you really want to know the God of Jesus Christ more deeply, it can be like trying to find the lost treasure of the Pirate Jean Lafitte. You might have to endure diving into a stinking, bug-infested, slimy, decaying, swamp. Like Lafitte’s buried loot, you may have to dig through the septic muck and mire to find the treasure of truth. You can’t avoid it, edit it, or make excuses for “the ugly verses” anymore. You have to be direct and endure with faith as you dig. Our Father wants to be known and that is why He speaks the words that He does. Jesus beheld and intimately knew the God of Moses. He wants us to behold and see the Father He knows. That being said, we are about to get brutally honest.
Our God speaks directly to Moses about the rules for His Theocratic government and authorizes this law by saying, “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result. But, they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property”.–Exodus 21:20-21. Thus saith the Lord.
God further instructs masters not to break the teeth, or bust up the eyes of your slaves. So, the rod was probably struck across the back of a slave. As you will see, many of the slaves were foreigners held against their will and did not want to be there. Proverbs says that you have to discipline slaves, talking does no good. “Servants cannot be corrected by mere words; though they understand, they will not respond.”–Proverbs 29:19. This was God’s government, and what you are about to read are His authorized rules that He spoke into existence. God’s directly spoken Laws are not “turn your head away” allowances. God’s Laws are real and authorized. He is saying, You can strike your slave with a rod, just don’t beat them to death. After all, it’s your property; it’s your money. Wow!
After getting through the initial shock of this verse, can we really be surprised? Remember this: The Bible equally encourages parents to “not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.” If a man is instructed to strike his child with a rod as a form of discipline, can we really be surprised that God authorizes striking a slave with a rod as a form of discipline? You may be thinking, “That’s different, you can’t make that comparison!” In a sense, you can. In the Bible, children were a man’s property. He could sell them. I ask again, can we really be that surprised?
Jesus, the Son of God, made a whip, threw tables, and drove the moneychangers out of the temple. Do you think it was a big “huff-and-puff” show? Or, do you think He laid some leather on their backs? If He did, no O.T. laws would be broken in that scenario either. Jesus had an opportunity to rebuke the practice of master-slave discipline. Instead, He used master-slave discipline as a real threat in a parable declaring that the servant who doesn’t obey the lord will be “beaten with many stripes”. In Christ’s eyes, this analogy was a just punishment.
We as believers are taught that before we believed, we were all deserving of Hell (Rom.3:23, Rom. 6:23); Jesus confirms that you are condemned if you don’t believe (John 3:18). Stripes for a slave is nothing compared to God’s punishment of eternal fire for not believing. So, are we really surprised? I say, “Like Father, Like Son”, they were not opposed to this practice of master-slave discipline.
You may be thinking that this is irrelevant, the O.T. Law is gone, and we believers have better things to study. Not true. We are talking about the God of Jesus Christ. Slavery carried over into the New Testament and was never abolished by God. Why, Why, Why? The underlying answer is highly relevant to both our present and future as believers. If you want to know God, don’t think that you can escape this. If we think that God’s law is immoral, then what about the God who authorized it?
Some of you may be thinking, Brother Dan, Jesus said that God authorized the laws of divorce because of the hardness of man’s heart; So Brother Dan, God was probably “holding his nose” when He made these laws! Not true. Concerning the laws of divorce, God Himself eventually became a divorcee! He said, “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries.” God wasn’t holding his nose! As much as he hated divorce, He ended up abiding by the morality of His own law. Later, I am going to show you that God said ALL these laws were righteous, moral, and wise.
This verse about the master-slave relationship is harsh. But I don’t want to let my utter repulsion blind me to the mystery of the verse. Mystery? The verse about beating your slave has mystery? How can you be serious? Why is this mysterious? This particular verse sounds eerily similar and parallel to something very important that God said long, long before the days of Moses. But first, we’ve got more digging to do.
Our Lord decreed to Moses that in His theocratic government you could have slaves from the Jewish race. You could buy a fellow Hebrew and own him for 6 years, or until the year of jubilee. Even a foreigner in Israel could own a Hebrew. But were Hebrews treated differently by God in comparison to other slaves? Was God ruthless to one set of people over another? Well, let’s listen to His own estimation of the situation:
‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves. 40 They are to be treated as hired workers or temporary residents among you; they are to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. 41 Then they and their children are to be released, and they will go back to their own clans and to the property of their ancestors. 42 Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. 43 Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God. Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly. —Leviticus 25: 39-46
God has spoken and clearly knows that the treatment He has authorized for foreign slaves is “ruthless” in comparison, and that Jews are not to be treated like this. He points it out twice and He knows exactly what He is saying and makes no apologies.
Some Bible Commentaries will skew the truth and tell you that this type of master-slave institution was a bit different in the sense that God expressly forbid the forced capture of slaves (Exodus 21:16). True, but not entirely. Judge for yourself:
“When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. 11 If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. 13 When the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword. 14 Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself”.
Basically, God instructs them to say, “You either become my slave, or I’ll kill you and kidnap your wife and kids”. You see, God did not forbid the forced, coerced capture of foreigners, God only forbid the forced capture of Hebrews as slaves (Deut. 24:7). Virgin girls were sometimes singled out for capture, “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”–Numbers 31:17-18.
When our God admitted that His law for the enslavement of foreigners was “ruthless”, He used the word “perek” which means severity, harshness, and cruelty. The Apostle Paul clearly understood this side of God’s nature. God is sovereign and it is NOT inconsistent for Him to be severe or harsh. Listen to what Paul wrote.
“Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”–Romans 11:22.
The Apostle Paul would absolutely throw up if he heard us perpetuating the half-truth that “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good”. That mantra has blinded us to the truth of what God has revealed about Himself. It is true that God is always good as in good vs. evil. But, He is not always good when it comes to nice vs. harsh. My drill sergeants were harsh, severe, cruel; they were not good in that sense, but they were never evil. But when it came to the motive, they were actually good, but it was the meanest, most vicious good I ever saw.
God used to be feared and praised in scripture for “His terrible acts”. All of that is edited out in today’s worship songs. There is an entire side of God that is never worshiped in church anymore. God is good half the time, and half the time, God is harsh. That will never go over! LOL.
In regards to Israel’s treatment of foreign neighbors you may be thinking, I thought we were supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves? Well, I love myself, but there are some things in my nature that have no other recourse but to be killed by the Holy Spirit. God is love, love is generally kind, but Agape love also hates. Remember, mankind was not God’s first, second, third, or even fourth love. We are down on the list (do you need to review your bible and this blog?).
Our problem is that we forget that God should be harsh with all of us. It’s merciful that any of us are shown favor. Sin made us look ugly to God. Without His favor, we all look like cockroaches to God. For us, it looks awful when God commands Israel to slay children. But it wouldn’t bother you to stomp on a baby roach. I’m not advocating doing any of these things. I’m just pointing out that as sinners we are the kingdom of cockroaches, yet we think the universe revolves around mankind and that we should all be treated nice. We mourn that He drowned the whole world when we should be amazed that He spared Noah.
God set up His own unique government with His own ordained laws and rules. He didn’t institute bankruptcy laws, unemployment, or other programs. In the clearest of terms, He authorized slavery. If you don’t believe, click on authorized.
Later in God’s Church, He set it up so that a slave-owner could be an Elder or a Bishop. But if you were a woman back then, you could forget about being an Elder or Bishop. Our Lord firmly prohibited women from doing certain things in the church, but He never prohibited slavery. God abolished many evil, heathen practices when He set up His theocratic government. God made additional changes when He set up His glorious church. At this point, you may be thinking, “God had at least two great chances to say, ‘Thou shalt not own another man as property’. Why didn’t He do it?
Is this God real, or was He the fabrication of some controlling, barbaric goat-herders? I believe God is real, and for me personally, the answers He revealed to me are among the most challenging, yet most enlightening I have ever encountered. This has not been easy for me. Yet, I am compelled to be neither positive or negative, but to be accurate when sharing the scriptures. You may be enraged or feel sick on your stomach, but I hope that I can encourage you to be patient and believe. We must face another ugly truth to complete the picture He is painting.
Remember earlier when God said that Hebrew slaves were to be released after 6 years? Well, there was an exception. In God’s economy, things were different for the Hebrew virgin girls. In Exodus 21:7-8, our God authorizes this law,
“When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not satisfy her owner, he must allow her to be redeemed-bought back again.”
Are you reading this with your eyes wide open? What do you think it means when it says, “If she does not satisfy her owner, he gets a money-back guarantee”? If an ordinary slave didn’t satisfy the owner, they got disciplined. But she is no ordinary slave. What’s going on?
The first clue is that she isn’t let go after 6 years like Hebrew males. Would you like a second clue? The second clue is found in verses 10 & 11. But, before we read that, remember this: Verse 11 confirms that she is still a slave, because if he doesn’t keep providing 3 things for her, then HE CAN’T SELL HER. No money for him. She gets to be free, and he gets no payment. Read this carefully and notice that they are in an “If-Then” type of contract:
“If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. If he will not do these three things for her, then she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.”
If he doesn’t keep giving his slave-girl ample amounts of food, clothing, and sex as before, then she can go free without any money being paid for her freedom. There isn’t any writ of divorce given either. Why? Because they ain’t fully married; they’re sort-of married.
What kind of slave is this? Unlike most commentaries which try to spin the facts and become God’s makeup artist, Holman’s Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Smith’s Bible Dictionary and several more, all tell us the plain truth. Look up “Concubine” and you will find that they all point to Exodus 21: 7-11. (Cover your ears)….SHE IS A CONCUBINE. Definition of Concubine: A female slave used for sexual purposes in a relationship inferior to the privileges of a full wife, yet decreed by God under Mosaic Law. Concubines could either be purchased (Exodus 21:7), or won in battle, provided that they were virgins (Numbers 31:18).
Let me pause to ask you a question. Is God’s Theocratic Government giving you a strong case of culture shock? My jaw was dropping and I did a lot of digging. I have had to review and do a lot of painstaking research on the biblical definitions of “fornication” and “adultery”, and “concubines”. Much to my utter amazement, according to God’s law, having a “biblical concubine” was neither fornication or adultery. She was not a prostitute; she was housed, given provision, and was in legal bond of relationship as his property.
In God’s theocracy, a concubine relationship was not immoral. Why was this important to God? Why did He authorize laws for the concubine relationship? Could it be that it has a spiritual parallel? I wonder. John the Baptist had a spiritual relationship with God, but said that he was not a part of the “Bride of Christ” (John 3:29). What’s up with that?
What was God’s opinion about these laws? Was he just trying to accommodate or “work with” the culture that was given to Him? Nope. Listen to His answer.
“Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?—Deuteronomy 4:6-8
Does all of this seem like inconsistent behavior for God? It might be inconsistent with the way we imagine God to be, it might be inconsistent with the “good all the time” golden calf that the preachers have molded for us, but it is not inconsistent with the scriptures.
Carefully consider this: The Book of Job is considered by most scholars to be the first written book of the Bible. It’s older than the rest. Now I believe that God was in charge of making certain that this book was the first written book of the scriptures. Why? It sets a precedent like no other book does. So, imagine if you were one of the first readers of the first written book of the Bible. How does the Book of Job introduce the reader to God? What impression did God want you to have of Him? What was the first command given in the first written book of the Bible? Here is the answer to the million dollar question:
“Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.”–Job 1:12.
In other words, I give you the authority to do whatever you want to do with Job. He and everything belonging to him is now placed into your hands. You are in control and he is under your thumb. Just don’t kill him”. That sounds incredibly similar to Exodus 21: 20-21 which basically said, “I authorize that this slave is your property. You can beat him if you want, but just don’t kill him”.
Job 1:12 and Exodus 21: 20-21 reveal God, and it is packed! We are all fallen, God doesn’t have to show kindness to any of us. God is sovereign, and He doesn’t have to play by our rules of fairness. We are not the center of God’s universe, and we should be thankful for any favor. There’s a Thanksgiving message. What else do you see when comparing these two passages?
As I have already shared, this has been an extremely unpleasant, painful, and costly post for me. I didn’t like what I saw. I despised it. I do not relish in the things that are written here, yet I cannot deny the truth that was spoken by God. I would even dream about these scriptures. As disturbing as all of this was, I could hear that still, small voice giving me comfort and encouraging me to keep digging. At times I was disgusted with God, but He was never angry towards me. I kept being reminded, “Don’t be positive, don’t be negative, be accurate, and don’t hold back.”
It was somewhat comforting for me to find out that best-selling author, Pastor John MacArthur (Grace To You broadcast), has made some of the same discoveries in his recent book, “Slave”. He was perplexed to discover that “there had been a centuries-long cover-up by English New Testament translators that had obscured a precious, powerful, and clarifying revelation by the Holy Spirit.” I have only read one chapter so far, but it confirmed everything to me. I’m putting this book on my Christmas list!
There is more that I could write, much more. I realize that I am leaving you with many questions still unanswered. There is plenty to digest, so I will stop here. My own faith has been severely tested through the scriptures that I have been reading, and yet, I have come through the despair with a sharpened and steeled faith.
But before I go, I’m going to give you something that will lead you to the answers. Remember when I said that I actually dreamed about these scriptures? I will leave you with a hard, hard question that awoke me in the night and propelled me to dig. “Dan, way down in your heart do you believe the Master-Slave relationship to be wrong, immoral, or unjust? “Yes, that was a horrible institution!”, I answered. “Within your answer lies the problem”. “What problem??? I demanded. “Dan, do you consider my relationship with you to be immoral? Unfair at times? Paul didn’t.” I woke up.
Have you been bought with a price and are not your own? (1 Cor. 6:20).
- Slavery Verses II: John MacArthur Exposes NT Slavery (defrostingwindows.wordpress.com)
- Two Reasons Why God Never Abolished Slavery (defrostingwindows.wordpress.com)