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Reference: Slave, Slavery

Hastings

The Heb. 'ebhedh, usually tr 'servant,' has a variety of meanings, between which it is not always easy to distinguish. E.g. in 2Sa 9:2 'servant' = retainer, in 2Sa 9:10 b = bondman, in 2Sa 9:11 = a polite expression of self-depreciation (cf. 2Ki 4:1 and 1Ki 9:22). In a discussion of Hebrew slavery only those passages will be dealt with in which the word probably has the sense of bondage.

1. Legally the slave was a chattel. In the earliest code (Book of the Covenant [= BC]) he is called his master's money (Ex 21:21). In the Decalogue he is grouped with the cattle (Ex 20:17), and so regularly in the patriarchal narratives (Ge 12:16 etc.). Even those laws which sought to protect the slave witness to his degraded position. In the BC the master is not punished for inflicting even a fatal flogging upon his slave, unless death follows immediately. If the slave lingers a day or two before dying, the master is given the benefit of the doubt as to the cause of his death, and the loss of the slave is regarded as a sufficient punishment (Ex 21:21). The jus talionis was not applicable to the slave as it was to the freeman (cf. Ex 21:26 ff. with Ex 21:22 ff.); and it is the master of the slave, not the slave himself, who is recompensed if the slave is gored by an ox (Ex 21:32). In these last two instances BC follows the Code of Hammurabi [= CH] (

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