Bible Articles on the Topic of Slavery

The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.

Philemon and Slavery

It is very fitting in itself that Paul’s one private letter left for us (Philemon) should be an earnest plea and fervent expression of love and unity for a slave — a class that was then treated as less than human. Paul calls him his son, his brother, and his own heart.

Slavery in the New Testament

Christianity emerged within the Roman empire, during a time in which the worst forms of slavery were common. Unlike the Hebrews of ancient Israel, early Christians were living in a society over which they had virtually no influence, and in which the legal systems were totally beyond their control. Many people who became converted to Christianity would have already owned slaves, and would have inherited well established Roman cultural attitudes to slaves and slavery, which were anathema to the gospel and the teaching of Christ. How did early Christianity address the issue of slavery in such an environment?

Christian Acceptance of Homosexuality

One of the arguments currently appearing in the media to encourage Christian acceptance of homosexual relationships is this:

What Does The Bible Say About Slavery?

Many people claim that the Bible favours slavery.’¹

Striving for the Attitude of a Bond-servant

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul encouraged the Philippians to strive to imitate Jesus. But where do you start with such a task? How does one imitate Jesus? Of all the examples that Jesus left us, which should we strive to imitate the most? Which should be our priority? Paul responded in this way:


After reading this short epistle it would be well to read the last twelve verses of the Epistle to the Colossians, especially noting the various names that are mentioned by Paul. No less than eight of those mentioned in Philemon 1 are found in Colossians, and several of them in a way that throws light upon their history.

The Epistle to Philemon

The epistle to Philemon is the shortest of all the canonical letters of Paul. Conjoining Timothy with him in the salutation, as he had done to that addressed to all the Colossian saints, he here addresses, in company with Philemon and Apphia his wife, Archippus, a labourer in the Word, and the Church in Philemon’s house, sending the letter, not by Tychicus, but most likely by the one who was most deeply and personally interested in its contents.

An Exposition of the Epistle of Paul to Philemon

This letter, an appendix to the Pastoral Epistles, has a character of its own; so much so that those, whose mania it has been to doubt its genuineness as an inspired communication of the apostle, have without difficulty put together some slight appearances on which to build their destructive argument. Indeed Dr. Ellicott, one sees, does not include the letter to Philemon, but gives those only to Timothy and Titus as the Pastoral Epistles; and in this he does not differ from others. Nevertheless, allowing a marked difference, it is their beautiful complement and follows them so naturally that we may without violence class them together, rather than leave the letter to Philemon absolutely isolated.

Bond-service, Abolition and the Mosaic Law

With regard to the other matter, the subject of bond-service, we should remember that this was an old established custom in the world when the Law was given; and in various forms, it has persisted all through the ages. It has been connected with some horrible evils in which the lust for gold has consumed all feeling of sympathy or pity. Unfortunately the abolition of slavery in the modern world did not effect a softening of heart or decrease the lust for gold. It freed the wealthy from a sense of responsibility and destroyed the personal touch between master and servant. The development of big business and limited companies has carried the estrangement further. An individual master may have both soul and conscience, but a limited company has neither. Often a bond servant might love his master as the Law distinctly recognised, but we can hardly imagine anyone loving a limited company. Many observers, who during the last century had opportunity to see and make comparisons, declared that the negro slaves in the Southern States of America fared much better than the submerged tenth in industrialised England.

Christianity and Slavery

While inculcating principles, which, if accepted and acted upon, would have destroyed the essence of despotism and slavery, transformed every despot, in fact, into a just and beneficent sovereign, every slave-owner into a kind master, like Philemon, and every slave into a freeman in all but the name—nay, into a “brother beloved”—the Apostles refrained from a crusade against despotism and slavery as political institutions. Both had so long and extensively prevailed, and the latter was so universally sanctioned, that they could not be extirpated by any summary process, nor denounced and resisted, except at the risk of transforming the religions revolutions into a political one.

God’s Slave

Before me lies a boys’ “Annual” open at a page upon which appears a number of small pictures, illustrating some of the horrors of slavery. The pictures can easily be visualised from the following letterpress:

The Years of a Hireling

In the days when Israel entered the Promised Land, there was very little free labour as we understand it to-day, and the free-man’s principal method of obtaining a living lay in working his own land or breeding cattle. Most of the menial tasks which to-day are performed by hired labour, were then the duty of slaves who were the personal property of their master. Under God’s Law, however, it was ordained that no Hebrew should enter into slavery; but any man who was unable to earn his own living or pay his debts could sell “his labour” for a strictly limited period.¹ This was six years if he worked for a Hebrew; or a longer period, not to exceed forty-eight years, if he worked for a foreigner.²

Bondservants of Christ: An Address given at a Fraternal Gathering

The literal translation of this passage given in the Emphatic Diaglott is “Not by eyeservice as men pleasers but as slaves of the anointed doing the will of the God from the soul.” (Ephesians 6:6)

Theodosian Code: Title 9: No Jew Shall Have a Christian Slave

1.² Emperor Constantine Augustus to Felix, Praetorian Prefect.

Re’eh: The Strange Laws Of Jewish Slavery

In Deuteronomy 15:12-18, Moses instructed the children of Israel that if a fellow Hebrew was sold into servitude, the Hebrew slave would serve six years, and in the seventh year go free. When the master set the slave free, the master was to give the former slave parting gifts. But it the slave tells the master that they did not want to leave, the master was to take an awl and put it through the slave’s ear into the door, and the slave was to become the master’s slave in perpetuity.


hōm ́bôrn (אזרח, ‘ezrāḥ): A native-born Hebrew, as contrasted with a foreigner of different blood. The same Hebrew word is found in Leviticus 16:29; 18:26 and elsewhere, but is translated differently. Home-born in Jeremiah 2:14 is a translation of the phrase יליד בּית, yelīdh bayith, where it means a person free-born as contrasted with a slave.


sûr ́vant (עבד, ‛ebhedh; δοῦλος, doúlos): A very common word with a variety of meanings, all implying a greater or less degree of inferiority and want of freedom: (1) The most frequent usage is as the equivalent of “slave” (which see), with its various shades in position (Genesis 9:25; 24:9; Exodus 21:5; Matthew 10:24; Luke 17:7, and often); but also a hired workman where “hired servant” translates Hebrew and Greek expressions which differ from the above. (2) An attendant in the service of someone, as Joshua was the “servant” the Revised Version “minister” of Moses (Numbers 11:28). (3) As a ‘term of respectful self-depreciation referring to one’s self, “thy servant.” or “your servant” is used in place of the personal pronoun of the first person: (a) in the presence of superiors (Genesis 19:2; 32:18, and often); (b) in addressing the Supreme Being (1 Samuel 3:9; Psalms 19:11; 27:9; Luke 2:29, and often). (4) Officials of every grade are called the “servants” of kings, princes, etc. (1 Samuel 29:3; 2 Samuel 16:1; 1 Kings 11:26; Proverbs 14:35, and often). (5) The position of a king in relation to his people (1 Kings 12:7). (6) One who is distinguished as obedient and faithful to God or Christ (Joshua 1:2; 2 Kings 8:19; Daniel 6:20; Colossians 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:24). (7) One who is enslaved by sin (John 8:34).

Slave; Slavery

slāv, slāv ́ẽr-i:

Ishmaelites Purchase Joseph


The Israelites’ Cruel Bondage in Egypt


Jacob’s Sons Deceive Their Father


Jacob In Anguish (1869)


Jacob Told His Son is Dead (1869)


Joseph Being Sold By His Brothers


Joseph Sold by His Brethren to the Ishmaelites


Joseph Sold by His Brothers


Joseph Sold by His Brothers


Joseph Sold by His Brothers


Joseph Sold by His Brothers


Joseph Sold Into Egypt (gouache on board)


Joseph Sold into Slavery


Joseph Sold Into Slavery by His Brothers (1602 oil on canvas)