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

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 013:50 (Apr 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

Statute For The Protection Of Oppressed Fugitives

The Mosaic legislation, the more it is examined, is seen to be a system of supernatural, divine wisdom. Amidst a congeries of particulars, sometimes seemingly disconnected, great underlying and controlling principles break out. The principle revealed in the statute against man-stealing, is the same developed in the next statute which we are to consider, in the order of the logical and historical argument from the

Old Testament Scriptures against slavery. The principle is that of the sacredness of the human personality, which cannot be made an article of traffic, cannot be bought and sold, without a degree of criminality in the action like the criminality of murder. As the sacredness of human life is guarded by the penalty of death for the crime of maliciously killing a man, so the sacredness of human liberty, the property of a man’s personality, as residing solely in himself, is guarded by the same penalty against the crime of stealing a man. The theft is that of himself from himself, and from God his Maker. As murder is the destruction of the life, so man-stealing and selling is the destruction of the personality, the degradation of the man into a thing, a chattel, an article of property, transferred, bartered for a price, as if there were no immortal soul nor personal will in existence.

The statute in Deut. 23:15-16, is properly to be examined next after that in Exod. 21:16 and Deut. 24:7. The whole form of the statute is as follows: “Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.” Of the interpretation of this statute, there cannot be the least doubt; as to its application only can there remain, in any mind, some little question.

The first thing to be considered is the language: “Thou shalt not deliver up the servant to his master, which is escaped unto thee from his master.” The servant to his master, עֶבֶד אֶל־אדֹנָיו. It is not, the slave to his owner, or the heathen slave to his owner, which would have been the proper form of expression, if either slaves at any rate were under consideration, or heathen slaves alone. The word for servant is the ordinary...

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