IS GOD EVIL, GOOD or HALF & HALF?
Many people these days criticize the Bible for it’s standards and laws regarding slavery, women, the violence that happened and other things. Many atheists and critics of the Bible make statements like this:
“Rape, genocide, human sacrifice, murder, slavery, torturing and killing your own children and incest are all evil, and encouraged by god.” Zero9**
The Bible and the whole world is filled with profound blessings from God and most human rights were pioneered by Jews and Christians precisely because of Bible principles. Most moral values and especially human rights values of modern people would simply not exist today without the influence of Christians following the Bible. See this site for details on that: http://www.truth-is-life.org/GoodLifeEvidence.html). To cherry pick a few cases and represent that as normal is like citing the massacre of Indians in America and citing that as typical of democracy. It's grossly irresponsible.
Some of these allegations are very easy to debunk for the blatant falsehoods. Others take more understanding of gigantic differences in time, culture, linguistics and others (such as that nearly all slavery that God permitted in the Bible was voluntary and actually a welfare system for the benefit of the poor).
But, first of all, why does God give laws to people? He says it clearly:
“But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; only if you stop your murdering; and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols. Then I will let you stay in this land that I gave to your ancestors to keep forever.” Jeremiah 7: 5-7
“This is what the LORD says: “What did your ancestors find wrong with me that led them to stray so far from me? They worshiped worthless idols, only to become worthless themselves. Jeremiah 2:5
IT is in order to prevent us from HARMING ourselves that God gave us these instructions. It angers him when people suffer and promote things that cause the beings He loves to suffer. He has given free choice to all and so allows it. But, it still angers him in the same way you would be angry at someone telling your child that cutting his arm with a razor was a thrill and something great to try.
Here are some of the easy answers to common atheist charges.
1) HUMAN/CHILD SACRIFICE: OK, this one is really easy. God was horrified by this. He says in Jeremiah 32:33
“My people have turned their backs on me and have refused to return....they would not receive instruction or obey... 35 They have built pagan shrines to Baal in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, and there they sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing. What an incredible evil, causing Judah to sin so greatly!”
2) RAPE/INCEST: Similarly, rape was a very serious crime in Israel and incest was explicitly condemned in in the Bible.
“Suppose a man meets a young woman, a virgin who is engaged to be married, and he has sexual intercourse with her. If this happens within a town, if the man meets the engaged woman out in the country, and he rapes her, then only the man must die. Do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no crime worthy of death. She is as innocent as a murder victim. Since the man raped her out in the country, it must be assumed that she screamed, but there was no one to rescue her. Deuteronomy 22:23,25-27
In the case of incest, in ancient near east cultures around Israel, it was not unusual for near relatives to marry. Some Egyptian kings for example married their sisters. We can see a couple casese of this among early Bible characters like Abraham marrying his paternal sister, and Amram, Moses’ father marrying his aunt. It may not have been as much of a health problem as it is for us now possibly. But, through Moses, God soon gave specific bans on incest like these and others and Jewish Law had some of the first prohibition in history against marriage of one's "near of kin" (Lev. 18:6-27). It forbids a man to marry these relatives (as well as forbidding sex with animals) and states that the Canaanites did these things and it defiled the land:
• Sister and half sister (but not a stepsister)
• Wife of father's brother
• Brother's wife
• Stepdaughter and step granddaughter
• Wife's sister during the lifetime of the former
3) MURDER/GENOCIDE: In Exodus 20, God commanded people not to murder just like all modern governments do. But, like modern governments today, there are cases where national security must be protected and justice must be done and some of these required fighting or capital punishment.
There was no genocide done by God in taking over Canaan from the utterly depraved Canaanite tribes. Have you seen the movie “Blood Diamonds” and the terrible abuses and crimes there? The practices of the nations in the Ancient Near East surrounding Israel would have made the RUF army in that movie (which is based on real events) look kind in comparison. Some were involved in sacrificing babies to burning idols, torturing people by skewering them like shishkebabs, skinning them alive and other horrific atrocities. War was a springtime hobby for kings. The practices these people were involved in would have killed at least millions over even a few centuries if not ended. Atheists would be condemning God for not stopping them. This is a classic case of being condemned if you do and condemned if you don’t. If God ended the injustice and horror, atheists condemn God. If He doesn't end the abuse in justice...they also blame Him. The atheist position has nothing to do with reality or any comprehension of fairness.
Add to this the Middle Eastern concept of blood vengeance, the responsibility to attack and kill anyone who hurt your tribe/nation. We can see this in the conflict between Israelis and Arabs that has gone on for millennia. If God had not destroyed the entire enemy nations, the remnants would have grown up to do exactly what the Arabs have done for centuries and our modern world would be FAR more violent and filled with war and terrorism than it already is. God had 2 choices:
1) Destroy the whole population of the evil nations or
2) See blood vengeance happen for millennia between many nations (as we have with Israelis/Arabs)
Some say, "Oh, but God could destroy only the leaders and soldiers, fighting men, etc." No, it was the whole culture that was teaching these things from childhood on up. The only way to end it would be to destroy everyone or to destroy everyone's mind and remove and violate their freedom of choice, which is one of God's highest priorities.
These actions of God were rare and were cases of national justice where He had given these people much warning and they had simply ignored them. If God let evil continue, violence and suffering would fill the earth.
An insightful Christian author writer,
“In sparing the life of Cain the murderer, God gave the world an example of what would be the result of permitting the sinner to live, to continue a course of unbridled iniquity. Through the influence of Cain's teaching and example, multitudes of his descendants were led into sin, until "the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence." [GEN. 6:5, 11.]
In mercy to the world, God blotted out its wicked inhabitants in Noah's time. In mercy he destroyed the corrupt dwellers in Sodom. Through the deceptive power of Satan, the workers of iniquity obtain sympathy and admiration, and are thus constantly leading others to rebellion. It was so in Cain's and in Noah's day, and in the time of Abraham and Lot; it is so in our time. It is in mercy to the universe that God will finally destroy the rejecters of his grace.” Ellen White, Great Controversy p. 453 (’88 version)
FACTS TO CONSIDER BEFORE GOING FURTHER (into discussions of slavery)
There are many facts to keep in mind when people engage in these cherry picking fallacies and allegations about the Bible.
1) LINGUISTICS: Some of the biggest problems people have is due to forgetting that words have different meanings in different times and cultures. There ARE MASSIVE differences between our culture and theirs and words sometimes have vastly different meanings. The fact is that as we will see below, nearly all slavery permitted by God was a voluntary welfare system where no one else had to be taxed to support those in financial trouble. It was not forced, since kidnapping was a capital crime.
I live in Korea and am involved in a lot of translation work and I see this all the time...you can't just assume that words always mean the same thing in different cultures. You'll make major mistakes if you do that even in modern cultures and far more in ancient cultures. Here are 3 examples of that:
a) The word “gay” has changed vastly in meaning in just a few centuries from centuries to ours.
b) The word “pumpkin” in American can refer to cute kids you love (Hey, pumpkin, what do you want to eat tonight?). But, in Korean, the very same word refers to a person with an ugly face.
c) Even in the same time period, 1 word can have completely different meanings. For example, in America, football is a game with 4 downs, touchdowns and field goals. But, in England, South America and many other countries, it means a game with a net, strikers, goals and a soccer ball (which is actually played with the foot most of the time).
In a similar way, most uses of the word slave in the Bible (esp. in the laws of Israel) have very little to do with our current use or concept regarding slavery as we will see below.
2) FAIR COMPARISONS: Another important thing to remember is that the human rights given to all of the underclasses of society such as, slaves, women, foreigners, poor, etc. in Israel were light years ahead of that in all other cultures of the time. The Greeks and Romans for example thought nothing of infanticide and they would have ridiculed freeing slaves just for a tooth being knocked out as insane. Furthermore, the rights of human beings was of very little concern to ancients unless you were the one with money and power. Whether it was the gladiators of Rome or the countless slaves emperors of China forced to work on their projects, such as the Great Wall of China, the underclass was mostly to be used for the glory of the nation or those who had power. To get some basic understanding of the difference in human rights & other values between Israel & other cultures of the time, of what life was like in those days and the difference between how slaves were treated in Israel and in other countries, read these sites carefully:
3) MODERN VIEWS OF HUMAN RIGHTS WOULDN'T EXIST WITHOUT CHRISTIANITY
God always desires us to advance in human rights and how we treat others and that’s true today still. But, without the Bible, almost nobody would have the concerns and views that they do about human rights much if at all. Many ancient cultures couldn’t have cared less about human rights. Citizens of those countries were considered pawns of the state to be used at will for national glory without regard for the sanctity of life. Whether you look at the Roman gladiator games or the Athenians or the Chinese emperor Chin, modern respect for human life was something mostly if not totally unknown to the ancient world.
It was the Bible that pioneered most rights for minorities, women, slaves and others. See this site for documentation on why it was Christianity, almost alone, that pioneered most of the human rights in history.
The Bible was also the foundation for those who fought the injustice of modern forced slavery. Verses like this one inspired the abolitionists, who were nearly all Christians, to lead the campaign to for the first time ever in history get rid of slavery.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
Try to watch the movie “Amazing Grace” or at least some clips of it here to see the Christians who succeeded in abolishing slavery at a national level for the first time ever in history. That movement was directly inspired by the Bible’s crucial principles and respect for human life and led by Christian pastors and politicians. People may criticize the Bible for giving rules about slavery. But there are very concrete reasons why it was Christians alone who succeeded in abolishing slavery first in the history of the world and those reasons are biblical.
4) FREEDOM OF CHOICE AND PIONEERING STEPS IN MORALITY: Another fact was that many of the laws God gave in the Old Testament were NOT His final goal. For that matter, laws He gave even in the New Testament were not His ideal. Jesus explicitly says he has much more to teach the disciples, but they are not ready for it yet. But, God has given people the risky privilege of freedom, including the freedom to reject & disobey him, a freedom which Israel used all to frequently to their own hurt.
God was also dealing with people who had just gotten out of slavery. These people would have just laughed at rational argument and anything less than severe discipline. They had no education. They were illiterate. They were basically at ground zero morally. The rules he gave them were not the ultimate level he wanted for them....they were 1st steps on the path to the ideal nation. Even much later in the New Testament Jesus couldn’t tell his disciples who had been with Him 3 years all His ideals because they weren’t ready for it.
“There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. John 16:12
God had done miracles to rescue them from slavery. Because of this, EVERY person in Israel agreed to be ruled as a theocracy (other nations haven't and aren't in the same condition those slaves were, so aren't required to follow those). But, all God asked was for the best good of all the people in that nation.
Modern nations are not in the same position as Israel (or the Canaanite tribes) because not all agreed to be a theocracy under God’s perfect wisdom. Even today, Israelis are wealthier than most nations and have won more Nobel prizes percentagewise than any other nation in the world..and that's only with following a very small percentage of God's principles half-heartedly at best most of the time.
THIS was the reason God wanted them to follow His principles:
Deuteronomy 28:9 “If you obey the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways, the LORD will establish you as his holy people as he swore he would do. 10 Then all the nations of the world will see that you are a people claimed by the LORD, and they will stand in awe of you.
11 “The LORD will give you prosperity in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, blessing you with many children, numerous livestock, and abundant crops. 12 The LORD will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do. You will lend to many nations, but you will never need to borrow from them. 13 If you listen to these commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom.
That has come true many times in history in many areas..even with much disobedience...imagine what would happen if they had followed even half or 90% consistently?
God asks people to be disciplined and follow His principles for the same reason science asks scientists to be disciplined and follow the scientific method. They are for the best good of all concerned. But, in a number of areas, modern nations and even Christians have not progressed past these basics. God respects our freedom & leads us step by step as we follow His principles. When we do, we always find that His system is MUCH better than ours.
Watch some of this video, esp. the first 10-15 minutes for a movie with great graphics on this topic of God’s choice to value our freedom of choice and win the universe with love, not force:
QUESTION: WHAT ABOUT SLAVERY? ANSWER: IT WAS MAINLY A WELFARE SYSTEM
In fact, the Biblical concept of slavery was part of an economic system and was mostly a provision to take care of those who couldn’t support themselves without taxing others to pay for their support. It was part of the Jubilee economic system of the Bible which basically advocated these things:
1) DISTRIBUTE NATURAL RESOURCES EQUITABLY: Since God created all natural resources (and even atheists agree that no person created them), God said they they must be shared equitably by all. Even pagan nations were responsible to guarantee a basic living standard for all its citizens.
2) FREE MARKET: Once this basic economic right is provided to all, then everyone can follow free market economics and if you work hard (or are lucky), you can get rich.
3) LESSEN THE INCOME GAP: God gave several principles of generosity to Israel that would lessen the gap between the rich and the poor. MUCH research shows that money only improves happiness from poverty to middle class levels and that high income gaps in societies are not good for anyone, not even the rich. See: http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson.html
4) PROVISION FOR EMERGENCIES: In addition to the principles of generosity, God required that the edges of fields be left for the poor to harvest and instituted a welfare system where people could sell themselves as slaves if they were unable to support themselves and they would be taken care of without using taxes or funds from others for up to 7 years.
Here are some of the biblical principles on “slavery” or indentured servitude so you can see for yourself.
BIBLE PRINCIPLES REGARDING SLAVERY
KIDNAPPING WAS A CAPITAL CRIME—MEANING THAT “SLAVERY” WAS VOLUNTARY
Exodus 21:16 “kidnappers must be put to death, whether they are caught in possession of their victims or have already sold them as slaves.”
Deuteronomy 24:7 ”If anyone kidnaps a fellow Israelite and treats him as a slave or sells him, the kidnapper must die. In this way, you will purge the evil from among you.
Slavery was voluntary (because of poverty) since kidnapping was illegal&oppression of foreigners was forbidden(so it has nothing to do with modern slavery). Slavery was temporary unless the slaves wanted it permanent (they pierced their ears to show this). It was a FAR better welfare system than any in existence today since slaves worked for their necessities&were paid&no one else was taxed to pay for them.
Exodus 21:5 “1 These are the regulations you must present to Israel.2 If you buy a Hebrew slave, he may serve for no more than six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom....But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
What conditions must there have been to make a slave/servant want to be a slave forever? Surely, the conditions must have been vastly different from what we think of when we think of slavery.
These principles alone mean that chattel slavery wasn’t advocated by the Bible. A far more accurate term for biblical slavery would actually be indentured servants. Why? In almost all cases (except for rare cases of justice & criminal punishment), slavery in the Bible was voluntary. It was mostly a welfare system for those who couldn’t support themselves to help them meet their basic needs until they could become independent again.
In the Israeli system, slaves SOLD THEMSELVES to masters, NOT people kidnapping and selling them. And that slavery was only for a maximum of 6 years unless the slave VOLUNTARILY decided to pierce his ear and serve his master for life. The wife and children would be freed soon as well. But, since the boss had paid for 6 years of their work, he deserved the benefit of their work. It’s kind of similar to how sports work. One team has the right to draft players first. If they sign a contract, they are supposed to work for that whole time unless the owner agrees to trade them to another team or is compensated in some way for the loss of losing that player.
Chattel slavery simply wasn’t promoted by God in the Bible. This is a flagrant misrepresentation of the facts. The correct term would be “indentured servants” or something like that.
There were many other OT and NT principles that prevented abuse of slaves and gave them rights higher than any other nation in the ancient near east.
FOREIGNERS WERE TO BE TREATED AS EQUALS & NOT OPPRESSED
Leviticus 19:34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.I am the LORD your God.
Deuteronomy 10:1 ”You are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.”
Exodus 23:9 “You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it's like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.”
Deuteronomy 24:17,18 “Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.”
In Galatians 3:28, Paul writes, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile,neither slave nor free,nor is there male & female,for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
I do not know how God could make it plainer…no oppression of foreigners is about as black and white as it gets. The principles above and others others motivated Christians like Wilberforce &John Newton to fight against slavery & abolish it in England. For 1000s of years almost no other group, including atheists, had any conception that slavery was a problem or wrong & they for sure did not take any significant action to stop it. It was only Jews and Christians that brought the world out of a culture where slavery was considered normal. And remember that the laws God gave to Israel were NOT the final goal or his ultimate morality. They were only first steps. Yet, even these first steps were light years ahead of other cultures and in some cases way ahead of many modern cultures. But, Israel had freedom to disobey & did so many times.
MOST BIBLICAL SLAVERY WAS A VOLUNTARY WELFARE SYSTEM
Some equate biblical slavery with modern forced slavery. But, these verses show that it was used mostly as a welfare system for Isrealites. It was an ideal welfare system better than any other because:
a) It was voluntary and done by choice and
b) “slaves” worked for their keep, their food and housing. This plan didn’t require the government to tax anyone to support those who were in financial trouble.
This plan would save nations huge amounts of money in welfare costs if followed today (many modern jobs are actually worse than Israeli slavery since they don’t even pay a living wage and people go deeper and deeper into debt). It would be sustainable long term. And slaves were able to leave their “slavery” any time they wished if they paid off the money that remained until the year of Jubilee. This was only fair considering that they had been paid money for their services based on the number of years until the Jubilee as well.
Leviticus 25: 35 “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. 37 You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
39 “‘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.
47 “‘If a foreigner residing among you becomes rich and any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to the foreigner or to a member of the foreigner’s clan, 48 they retain the right of redemption after they have sold themselves. One of their relatives may redeem them: 49 An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in their clan may redeem them. Or if they prosper, they may redeem themselves. 50 They and their buyer are to count the time from the year they sold themselves up to the Year of Jubilee. The price for their release is to be based on the rate paid to a hired worker for that number of years.
51 If many years remain, they must pay for their redemption a larger share of the price paid for them. 52 If only a few years remain until the Year of Jubilee, they are to compute that and pay for their redemption accordingly. 53 They are to be treated as workers hired from year to year; you must see to it that those to whom they owe service do not rule over them ruthlessly.54 “‘Even if someone is not redeemed in any of these ways, they and their children are to be released in the Year ofJubilee, 55 for the Israelites belong to me as servants. They are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
GOD REQUIRES FAIR COMPENSATION/FORBIDS EXPLOITATION
Jeremiah 22:13 “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor.”
Deuteronomy 24:14 “Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. 15 Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin.”
“Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” Colossians 4:1
SLAVES OR RELATIVES COULD BUY THEIR FREEDOM
Exodus 25:35 "'If one of your countrymen becomes poor & is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you." (note that Israelis should help their poor countrymen in a similar way to how they should help a foreigner).
RIGHTS OF SLAVES/FREEDOM FROM ABUSE/DON’T RETURN RUNAWAY SLAVES
• Exodus 21:27 "And if he knocks out the tooth of a manservant or maidservant, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the tooth".
• Deuteronomy 23:15 You must not return an escaped slave to his master when he has run away to you.
16 Indeed, he may live among you in any place he chooses, in whichever of your villages he prefers; you must not oppress him.
“The Hebrew word here translated slave is ‘ebed’, and refers generally to any servant, no matter what form of servitude they were under, and regardless of their nationality. This is arguably the most remarkable law regarding servants in the entire Law of Moses. No other ANE society had any such law, and most contemporary societies actually punished those who protected or supported runaway slaves. The Law of Hammurabi was particularly vindictive regarding this matter, enforcing the death penalty on anyone who sheltered a runaway slave, or who even concealed knowledge of their whereabouts:
16. If any one receive into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or of a freedman, and does not bring it out at the public proclamation of the major domus, the master of the house shall be put to death.
17. If any one find runaway male or female slaves in the open country and bring them to their masters, the master of the slaves shall pay him two shekels of silver.
18. If the slave will not give the name of the master, the finder shall bring him to the palace; a further investigation must follow, and the slave shall be returned to his master.
19. If he hold the slaves in his house, and they are caught there, he shall be put to death.
Other ANE law codes were equally cruel, and the Law of Moses stands out as uniquely humanitarian:
‘Wherever slavery existed, there were slaves who escaped from their masters. Ancient Near Eastern law forbade harboring runaway slaves, and international treaties regularly required allied states to extradite them. The present law, in contrast, permits escaped slaves to settle wherever they wish in the land of Israel and forbids returning them to their masters or enslaving them in Israel.’
Nahum M Sarna, ‘Jewish Publication Society Torah Commentary Series: Exodus’, 1991, note on Deuteronomy 23:15-16, as quoted by Glenn Miller, ‘Does God condone slavery in the Bible?’, 2005
‘A slave could also be freed by running away. According to Deuteronomy, a runaway slave is not to be returned to its master. He should be sheltered if he wishes or allowed to go free, and he must not be taken advantage of (Deut 23:16-17). This provision is strikingly different from the laws of slavery in the surrounding nations and is explained as due to Israel’s own history of slaves. It would have the effect of turning slavery into a voluntary institution.’
‘A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law’, Raymond Westbrook (editor), 2003, volume 2, page 1006, as quoted by Glenn Miller, ‘Does God condone slavery in the Bible?’, 2005
These 2 sites have a HUGE amount of evidence on the culture of the ancient near east and show how vastly different the laws of Israel were compared to them.
The above verses and others show that the vast majority of biblical slavery was voluntary since forceful kidnapping was a capital crime & that even the voluntary slaves had unrivaled rights.
WHY DIDN’T THE NEW TESTAMENT ADVOCATE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY?
1) If God had told slaves/Christians with no power to rebel in Roman times…what would have been the result? Read the history of Spartacus and ponder that. If Jesus had advocated rebellion by slaves, the same thing that happened to Spartacus would have happened to most or all Christians. It was not the right time for that and the early Christians and Jews didn’t have anywhere close to the required political power or government power to do anything about the situation at that time. Jesus DID give principles to Israel on kidnapping and defining rights for slaves in the OT that were FAR above any other culture in history and inspired Paul to write that all are equal etc. Jesus’ principles and his example of respect for all people no matter their race or wealth were the foundations of the abolition movement and many other human rights movements throughout history.
2) God's focus is on righteousness first and changing the heart. Slavery is a secondary issue to righteousness. If you don't get the character right, then there is no real freedom. The history of Israel proves this many times...people forgot righteousness and then lost power and were conquered and enslaved. It's a direct correlation. Jews at Jesus time were deep in many sins and traditions that violated God's laws and needed heart first..then other lessons could follow. But, to just deal with superficial issues when the heart was still evil would not accomplish anything good, especially not long term.
3) God’s rules given to Israel and even to the early Christians were not His final ideal. Because God has given people free will, he must deal with people at their level and sometimes that is very immature. God was often frustrated with Israel. He wanted much greater and better things for them. But, they stubbornly refused to follow even some of the 1st steps that He gave them, no different from a child refusing to learn addition and multiplication when the teacher’s higher goal is algebra and calculus to enable the student do work in rocketry or space science. The Hebrews had just gotten out of slavery and were an illiterate, immature and stubborn people. God worked amazing miracles considering what He started with and the limitations of free will. But, don’t think for a second that those were His perfect ideals. Even Jesus said that he had much more to teach the disciples, but they weren’t ready for it yet.
I HIGHLY recommend that you watch videos 2-4 deal on the issue of of free will VERY well, so well that most scholars consider the problem of the problem of evil to have been answered conclusively.
There’s a Jewish site called "World Perfect" that is very helpful in understanding the conditions of the ancient world at: http://www.aish.com/seminars/worldperfect/index.htm (see especially the section on the value of life here: http://international.aish.com/seminars/worldperfect/wp03n05.htm
Since God respects freedom of choice, he has to lead at a level and speed that people can understand. Jesus told his disciples that he had much more truth to teach them, but they weren't ready for it yet. If you compare the civilizations of the Bible to the other nations around them there is an incredible difference in the level of rights given to women and slaves and pretty much everyone. The site above illustrates this in quite a bit of detail. But, God is constantly raising the standard to help us achieve more freedom and fulfill more potential.
4) So, we have Paul saying in Galatians 3:28, "There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus." This verse and others inspired certain Christians to start I believe the first abolition movement in the world. You need to deal with the FACTS of who has led the fight on most human rights issues. In most cases, it has been Christians who fought and sacrificed. NOT ALL Christians of course changed quickly...some were traditionalists and fought for modern evil slavery in contradiction of many Bible principles such as those listed above about kidnapping. But William Wilberforce and John Newton were just a couple of the ones who were Christian heroes who changed the world. The realization that slavery is wrong as with many other human rights issues originated with certain Christians actually taking the Bible seriously and trying to implement it in our modern world. See:
http://www.amazinggracemovie.com/index.php for an inspiring movie on this and some trailers and http://www.ttf.org/index/journal/detail/newton-wilberforce-2/ , http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/special/williamwilberforce.html
5) Last, for a much more detailed treatment of the slavery question, I recommend this link:
How Can We Trust A Bible That Tolerated Slavery?
The RBC book is good, but it misss a very important factor about how most slavery was actually a welfare system as above.
WHY IS THERE IMMORALITY IN THE BIBLE?
There is immorality in the Bible, yes. But Bible morality challenged many establishments in history&was far ahead of civilizations of its time. Unlike most ancient history, the Bible prophets frequently condemned even top leaders of their nation &churches for doing wrong.
1) God condemned many things in the Bible (incest, rape, involuntary slavery, kidnapping, etc.). The slavery in the Bible was mostly a voluntary welfare system temporarily entered into by choice by poor people
since kidnapping was a capital crime and since God expressly forbade all oppression of foreigners. The Bible’s statement that all are equal because of their Creator was the foundation for Christians starting the abolition movement.
2) But, although omnipotent, God has chosen to respect human freedom. This means He has to lead us step by step, as we are willing to follow, closer to the ideal. Jesus told his disciples that He had MUCH more to teach them, but they weren’t ready for it yet.
3) To preserve life,there are some cases where God must step in&enact justice or else millions will die&possibly humans will destroy all life themselves.
4) Democracies have done terrible things (like killing off many Indians in America). They’ve also gone to war, killing many Nazis for example. Scientists like Mengele under the Nazis did very immoral things. And scientists also cull millions of animals to avoid far more deaths. Should we eradicate democracy and science because of these things?
WHY DID GOD KILL WHOLE NATIONS (including some people that seem to be innocent like children?)
Sometimes babies have died due to God's actions. This is one of the hardest questions to answer. I give 3 answers basically.
1) The cultures God judged were very immoral and the babies if they had grown up there, would have accepted almost everything in that culture and done wrong. Some of them were going to war as a hobby, enjoyed torturing, had very depraved sexual practices, sacrificed babies to idols and worse. The influence was degrading the world. If not stopped, it would have killed millions and millions endlessly.
2) The ancient world was a communal culture. If someone killed people in your family, you had a duty to do blood vengeance. So, in the case of Canaan, if God had left some alive, for 1000 of years, there would have been continual violence and killing going on. We can see this even in the case with the Arabs vs. Israelis. So, it's unfortunate, but long term best to destroy all parts of those societies.
3) In the end, God will right all wrongs and make justice for all who have not been treated fairly on earth and all will be able to see that God was fair all along and agree that this is true.
4) God has the power to resurrect and give new life. This is total speculation, but it’s possible that he could give those who died innocently eternal life or another trial in some other world. God is the judge and He will resolve this to everyone’s satisfaction.
WHAT ABOUT FOREIGN SLAVES?
44 “‘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.
There were not a lot of foreign slaves in Israel. We must remember that ancient cultures didn’t have transportation like we do and so had much less international interaction. Slavery did exist in ancient times for certain, but much of it was due to war and reasons of that nature and much more localized.
There were basically two reasons that slavery of foreigners happened in Israel:
1) JUSTICE: Tribes like the Canaanite tribes had violated basic morality in serious ways for centuries. God had warned them in different ways, but they refused to change. Their cultures were very abusive, violent and lethal, even to their own citizens with much human sacrifice and gods like Molech requiring babies to be sacrificed daily.
2) BETTER RIGHTS: If you were a slave would you prefer to be a slave where you had no rights (other countries) or an indentured servant or even a slave in Israel (where you had rights). This answer should be obvious to the most casual observer as my math professor used to put it. In allowing them to have foreign slaves, God was actually helping foreign slaves come to a far better environment with more human rights than any other place in the world at that time. He was concerned about the best for them as well (even though most of those nations had rejected His correction&teaching for centuries). Israel couldn't control how slaves were treated in other countries. It couldn't stop slavery in other places or change their rights there. So, the best thing was to allow them to come to a place where they at least had basic respect&human rights given to them&could also learn about the God who created them&his truth.
3) FREEDOM FOR FOREIGN SLAVES: And remember the law against oppression in Israel and the law that slaves must not be returned if they ran away above. If foreign slaves ran away or were injured, they also could be freed. And it’s also quite reasonable to assume that they or friends could have bought their freedom if they wished as well.
AGAIN, even these laws God gave to Moses were not His ideal. They were first steps to His ideal to GREATLY soften the cruelty of the ancient world towards minorities, slaves and others.
NT VERSES ON SLAVERY
“As for slavery, just check Ephesians 6:5, 1 Timothy 6:1-2. There are numerous others, but these are sufficient to carry the point.” Catalyst, Youtube atheist
2 verses are NEVER enough to carry a point :) and can easily be taken out of context. The question on slavery is one that is a bit more complicated.
The fact is that kidnapping was a capital crime in the Bible (see below verse) and that God numerous times instructed the Israelites NOT to oppress foreigners since they had been slaves themselves in the past and they should not treat others so horribly as they had been treated. So, pretty much all “slavery” was either chosen voluntarily (there were a few cases where it was an act of justice, but even oppressing the slaves was forbidden).
Biblical “slavery” is mostly a welfare system where the slaves had to work for their keep instead of depending on taxes on others to live...a FAR better system than we have now in most countries where those who work hard have to give huge amounts of their money to those who aren’t working. Furthermore the human rights of indentured servants in Israel was FAR higher than anywhere else in the world at that time. If even a tooth was knocked out, the indentured servant was freed.
MISOGYNY AGAINST WOMEN?
Check this site for why the Bible did not advocate hatred of women and far more supportive of their equality than any surrounding nation. His principles were intended for their protection and best good.