The Historical And Legal Judgment Of The Old Testament Scriptures Against Slavery -- By: George B. Cheever

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 013:49 (Jan 1856)
Article: The Historical And Legal Judgment Of The Old Testament Scriptures Against Slavery
Author: George B. Cheever


The Historical And Legal Judgment Of The Old Testament
Scriptures Against Slavery

George B. Cheever

Patriarchal Establishments Of Isaac And Jacob

Lepsius has noticed the great personality of Abraham, and what he calls the non-prominent activity of Isaac. The contrast is indeed striking; and the only interval in which we behold, in his circumstances, the patriarchal greatness and prosperity of his father, is the period of his sojourn in the land of the Philistines, recorded in the 25th chapter of Genesis. But Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac (25:5); and the account given of him some twenty years after Abraham’s death, is as follows: “The Lord blessed him, and the man waxed great, and, went forward and grew until he became very great; for he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants “(26:12–14). Here the appellative for the greatness of his household is the Hebrew עֲבֻדָּה verbal from עָבַ י, signifying the whole body of his domestics, or of those in his employment, including, of course, the herdsmen and well-diggers.. Compare

(Job 1:8) the description of Job’s very great household, עֲבֻדָּה רַבָּה מ יאֹ. There is no intimation of slavery, nor any approximation thereto, in Isaac’s family or jurisdiction.

From him the same gifts of inheritance descended with the right of the first-born to Jacob, in whose family the patriarchal dominion and opulence passed from one person to twelve, in the Constitution of the Jewish State. During the sojourn of Jacob with Laban, there is no change of manners, no introduction or appearance of any form of slavery. Jacob himself is said to have served Laban for wages; he was Laban’s servant as well as his son-in-law; and it is said that “the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maid-servants and men-servants” וּשְׁפָתוֹת וַעֲבָדִים (Gen. 30:43). These went with him, when he fled from Laban; they were his עֲבדּה, his patriarchal establishment, when he met Esau, and sent messengers to his brother, saying: “I have oxen and asses, flocks, and men-servants, and women-servants (Gen. 32:5). But his two wives, and his two women-servants, and his eleven sons, are described as his immediate family, and are set apart by themselves,—the handmaidens with their children, an...

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