Slavery in Ancient times
I’m writing from the perspective of the Hebrew person who was rescued out of slavery in Egypt and trying to adapt to freedom.
I’m writing to scrutinise scripture rather than simply as a personal reflection because we are living in a society combating prejudice against historic slavery; many people locked into their own biases.
I’m writing, hoping to bring awareness to myself and to anyone reading, about how GOD’s perspective is from a completely different angle to ours with regard to slavery, and we need, I believe, to learn to look from His perspective in this an in all matters.
I’m looking at Deuteronomy 6
The written record has just reiterated the 10 Commandments in Chapter 5. Looking from Chapter 6 let us look at some of the language GOD uses to address those who will be left behind, to go into the Promised Land with Joshua after Moses has died…
“Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you… “ (v 3a)
“… when you have eaten and are full — then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, from the house of bondage. You shall fear the LORD your GOD and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. You shall not go after other peoples gods….” (v 12b-14a)
“You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your GOD, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you.” (v 17)
The language is bossy, abrupt, direct, warning and without any subtly… because these “children” descended from their fathers who were in slavery, and they have not yet learned how to walk in responsibility that comes with freedom.
His instructions are clear avoiding any doubt or confusion: live this way in order to avoid dire consequences.
The behaviour expected is a bit prescribed, because that is what these people are accustomed to. This does not advocate slavery but does suggest freedom is not without its expectations.
What is important to note
Slavery is nasty, undesirable, constrictive; it keeps one within harsh boundaries. But are all boundaries bad? These Hebrew people are going into the Promised Land where the cities will be taken from others and they will not need to build. The land will offer delicious food — it is the Land flowing with Milk and Honey. They will have absolute freedom, which they have never experienced before.
Freedom is the ability to make decisions and choices without any inhibitions or barriers. GOD is offering boundaries to those who’ve not experienced freedom because freedom requires responsibility if it is to be blessed, prosperous, healthy leading to joy and fulfilment. These people needed to learn how to live in freedom.
Freedom with Responsibility is what we all need today
While we may desire freedom, our downfall occurs when we have freedom and make mistakes. We can learn from any mistake but some mistakes are better not to make. GOD sets boundaries to protect us: ‘To love the LORD your GOD with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself’…. A focus on this keeps us safe from our human propensity toward selfishness and subsequent decay.
Holy Spirit and Boundaries
When we are filled with and walk with and are in partnership with the Holy Spirit, there is total freedom because Holy Spirit within us is our safeguard from error. Ignoring Him brings unpleasant consequences. Walking with Him and following His lead provides protection.
Slavery is unpleasant bondage. But absolute freedom is risky. Boundaries within our freedom protects us from ourselves.
From Slavery to Freedom
The Hebrews gained their freedom but it took a long time for them to grow accustomed to walking in it. They needed GOD’s boundaries and they needed to be thankful. Instead they often grumbled, doubted, complained, disobeyed. Let us learn from them and instead enjoy the liberty and freedom we have without forgetting who GOD is and what He has done through Jesus for us.
Sometimes scripture is cited ‘we are slaves for Christ’… that is not so that we obey the Law. It is not so that we feel condemnation when we err. It is so that we can enjoy belonging to Him and accept the safeguard of boundaries that our mature conscience and relationship with GOD offer, so that we enjoy freedom with responsibility.