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mandment (Ex. xx. 17; Deut. v. 21, &c.) should ever have been pressed into the service of human slavery, because that practice is a direct violation or breach of this as well as of the eighth commandment-it being impossible for one person to enslave another, without first “coveting,” or eagerly desiring what he knows is not morally and justly his own—and cannot therefore morally and justly belong to him, as he himself would instantly see and acknowledge, were he himself, or his family, or friends, to be themselves enslaved. This command being then a direct condemnation of human slavery, it is most wickedly absurd to quote the same in its defence when it can only be honestly quoted for its condemnation. I have already sufficiently illustrated the other absurd consequences that result from this wicked pro-slavery perversion.
The statutes in Ex. xxi. 2–6, and Deut. xv. 12—18, limit the voluntary sales of native Hebrew servants for the payment of their debts, to the period of six years at a time. While it appears from Lev. xxv. 44–46, and other passages, that adopted foreign servants might sell themselves for still longer periods, even up to the Jubilee. The political reason or policy of this distinction was, that foreigners could not hold real estate in the nation any longer than the Jubilee, when all the land in the country reverted back to its original owners or their heirs (see Lev. xxv. 10–13, &c.), so that as poor foreign immigrants into the nation could seldom obtain any land at all, it would frequently be more convenient for them to contract for periods of service longer than six years, though none were permitted to extend beyond the Jubilee. In Ex. xxi. 2, the description is, “if thou buy (procure) a Hebrew servant,” &c.—but by whom and of whom is not said. The proper inquiry therefore is, did Hebrew servants of this deseription " sell themselves" as free and voluntary servants, as the Egyptians did to Joseph ? Or were they sold by third persons to others as slaves, as Joseph was by his brethren to the Ishmaelites? for the words “buy” and “sell” prove nothing either way. So far as we now know anything about the mode of sales of service, the servants certainly “sold themselves" (Gen. xlvii. 19, 23; Lev. xxv. 47) by free and voluntary contract, just as poor foreign immigrants are now sometimes said to do. The use of the words and phrases here alluded to proves nothing against this mode, because a person who sells himself” is still “ bought” and “sold”
just as the Egyptians were when they sold themselves to Joseph to be Pharaoh's servants. Besides, were this statute intended to regulate slave sales, there is no probability that they would have been limited to the period of six years, but would have been in perpetuity like the sales of other property. For these reasons the statute was undoubtedly intended to regulate free and voluntary service. But it appears from the whole statute (Ex. xxi. 2–6), that though these sales were free and voluntary as well as limited, yet they might in one case be extended by an addition to the original contract. To understand the true meaning of the transaction we must recollect, that it was limited to the case of marriage by the servant during his term. The wife being a servant as well as the husband, when her term of service extended beyond his, he would be separated from his family, if he left his master's service at the expiration of his own term. ' If in those circumstances he wished to remain longer in service, the policy of the statute was to render the new contract a public legal transaction, and matter of legal record, so that the master should take no advantage of his superior power to oppress the servant therein, the Hebrew legal custom of boring the ear being used by the judges to ratify it. While it is at the same time perfectly clear from the language of the statute, that to the last transaction, whatever the first was, the servant was a free and voluntary party; so that if he became a slave for life, as many pretend he did, he did so by his own free choice and request ; while if his family were slaves also, he must have been excessively foolish to have become so for the sake of living with them, when the master might lawfully sell and separate them from him at any time, just as our modern slave. holders do. The Almighty never enacted a law to sanction such absurdity as this, because he never does anything in vain.
The statutes now under consideration, Ex. xxi. 2-6; Deut. xv. 12–18, were evidently enacted for the special benefit of the servant and not of the master. The length of time the former was bound to serve under the new contract is translated for ever” in the common English Bible, which is doubtless an incorrect literal translation. The two Hebrew words in most common use to express general terms or periods of time are “Edh” and “olaum" the exact ancient use and meaning of which it is not certain we now know.
All that we now certainly know about them is, that “ Edh” means time certain, fixed, and definite, while “olaum"
(alone used in these statutes) means time unseen, hidden, and indefinite, probably nearly the same as our English words "ever" and “always," and is certainly used in the Scriptures in a manner nearly as indefinite as we use these adverbs.
When these two words are used together they are commonly translated for ever," "everlasting," "eternal," &c., as “olaum" sometimes is when used alone, though they never literally mean thus, except when the subject matter admits of eternal duration. But as it always means a period or term of some kind, we are left to conjecture what that was in these statutes. It is ridiculous to understand it to mean eternal duration in them, because the period or term of service could not extend beyond the natural lives of the servant and his family, and by the same code of laws no servant could serve as such beyond the Jubilee. The period really intended by the statutes must therefore be ascertained by their object, which was in the case of the new contract, to prevent the separation of servants from their families. Judging from this object and from the fact that some finite period or term of time must have been intended, the most reasonable and satisfactory construction or explanation is, that it was the unexpired balance of the wife's term, which might extend to the Jubilee, but never in any case beyond it. This construction is the most likely to be correct, and it is the more just and conclusive, as it corresponds with the spirit of the Scriptures, and harmonizes the latter, while any other construction is almost sure to confuse them. The statutes provided in Ex. xxi. 7-11, and Deut. xxi. 10, 14, were made to regulate the well known oriental custom of buying and selling daughters and female wards for wives. Contrary to our own custom in such cases, by which parents and guardians give portions, dowries, or endowments to their daughters and female wards when they marry, and which usually becomes the property of their husbands; ancient oriental husbands, when they married, gave the parents or guardians of their wives the same consideration or compensation, and were thus said to “buy” or “purchase," and the parents or guardians to “sell” them their wivesthe whole custom being just as free and equal or equitable as our own is. In this way Jacob purchased his two wives by fourteen years of hard labor. Gen. xxix. 15—20. Several other examples of the same custom are recorded in the Scriptures, see Gen. xxiv. 4, 22, 38, 48, 51, 53; Deut. xxii. 28, 29; Judg. i. 12, 13; Ruth iv. 10; 1 Sam. xviii. 25, 27; Hos. iii. 2, &c. The statute in Ex. xxi. 7, 11, is somewhat obscure, but seems to have been intended for the case of betrothal before marriage, agreeably to the oriental custom here alluded to, and was made to prevent the abuse of that custom. As her intended husband had paid the customary dowry for her, the custom probably allowed him to receive it back from any other preferred suitor; but if she had none such, and he still refused to marry her, the statute gave it to her as reasonable damages for his violation of the contract. So if he had purchased her for one of his sons, but refused to complete the contract by actual marriage, the statute gave her the same measure of damages.
By the statute in Deut. xxi. 10, 14, 'the husband was allowed the right of voluntary divorce, if he became dissatisfied with his heathen wife—but as he had given no dowry or sum to obtain her, it was unreasonable he should obtain one after he had divorced her, and as he would be sure to injure her by the divorce, this statute wisely provided that no pecuniary consideration or temptation should ever be allowed to influence the transaction, so that although the divorced woman might afterwards marry again, the first husband should derive no benefit from her second marriage. As the Scriptures everywhere encourage matrimony for the gratification of honest love, they permitted it in this case for that purpose even between true believers and heathens, but allowed this voluntary divorce as a remedy for the evil consequences that would sometimes be likely to ensue from such unions. It is very remarkable, that in this case and that in 1 Cor. vii. 15, heathenism was permitted to be a sufficient cause for voluntary divorce, because according to Eph. ii. 15; iv. 18, &c., heathen persons are considered as spiritually dead, and as such most dangerous companions to true believers, from which doctrine most Christian legislators have perhaps correctly inferred, that where Christian husbands and wives behave like heathen, or perhaps worse than heathen, as by long wilful absence, by extreme cruelty, gross neglect, base fraud, &c., the same conduct ought, in addition to adultery, to be sufficient causes of divorce to the injured party.
Ex. xxi. 20, 21, is a statute regulating a peculiar case of homicide which would be liable to great abuse without such a regulation. As the oriental custom in common with that allowed mas. ters to give their servants necessary and reasonable correction the
same as to children (see Deut. viii. 5 ; Prov. iii. 12, xiii. 24, xix. 18, xxiii. 13, 14, xxix. 15, 17; Heb. xii. 7, 9, &c.), to prevent the abuse of this right the statute declared it to be what we call manslaughter, and subjected the master to the vengeance of the relations of the deceased servant, to kill a servant during his chastisement, even with the ordinary instrument of punishment, a provision that never would have been enacted had Hebrew servants been the lawful property of their masters; because every man might then, as he may now, lawfully slaughter his beasts, and destroy his other property at his own discretion, provided that in so doing he do not infringe the rights of others, which could not in this case be done to the servants if they were slaves, because the latter could have no rights to infringe.
The Hebrew text of the 20th verse literally reads, he shall surely be avenged," probably meaning thereby that the relations of the deceased servant might kill the master, provided they could overtake him before he reached a city of refuge, agreeably to the statutes recorded in Num. xxxv. 14-21, 30, 32; Deut. xix. 247, 11–13; Josh. xx. 2, 9, &c. Some are of opinion, from the great strength of the expression here quoted, that the master, in case of the immediate death of the servant, was to be punished as a murderer, even though he reached a city of refuge. But however this might have been, in order to prevent the abuse of the statute itself, it was provided in the 21st verse, that if the servant did not immediately die from the chastisement, that circumstance, together with the fact that it was for the master's interest to preserve the life of the servant, should be sufficient presumptive evidence of accidental death, that the master had no murderous intent, and that he ought not therefore to be punished at all. It is my opinion that the phrase "for he is his money,” applies equally to both of these. verses, and was intended as the special reason why, as the master was interested to preserve the life of the servant, he ought not to be held guilty of murder, in either of these cases of homicide. It is also certain that this very phrase is even now sometimes used in a free sense, being borrowed perhaps from this very statute-a statute provided for the special benefit and protection of both masters and servants in a case which would be liable to the greatest abuse without it, from the extreme irritation produced by such transactions--all other cases of murder, maim, and other abuses of servants by their masters, being regulated by