8 Biblical Differences Between Wives and Slaves

Webster’s dictionary defines a slave as “a person held in servitude as the chattel of another”.   The word ‘chattle’ refers to a human being that is owned by another human being.  By our modern definition of slavery, we cannot comprehend the concept of a person being owned by another person without that owned person not being a slave.

On one side of this debate about the Biblical treatment of wives we have Christians who claim that there is absolutely no similarity at all between the husband/wife relationship and that of a slave owner to his slave while on the other side we have atheists and other humanists who claim that the Bible makes women into slaves.  What do both of these sides have in common? Jesus said it best in the Gospel of Matthew:

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.”

Matthew 22:29 (KJV)

The truth is that the Scriptures teach us that is possible for one person to own another person without that owned person being considered a slave.  In other words, from a Biblical perspective while all slaves are owned by other people, not all people who are owned by other people are to be considered slaves.

Wives and Children Designated by God as Property and Slaves Allowed as Property

The Bible shows us that God designed two social classes of human beings that were to be considered the property of men.  He allowed a third social class of human being that could also be taken as property as well under certain circumstances.

In the 10th commandment God mentions a man’s wife, along with his male and female slaves amongst those things which are his property:

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Exodus 20:17 (KJV)

In the following passage we see that God gives children to their fathers as property:

“3 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. 4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. 5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”

Psalm 127:3-5 (KJV)

The English word “heritage” is a translation of the Hebrew word “Nachala” which literally means “inherited property”.

God authorized Israelite fathers to sell their daughters as indentured servants for a period of no longer than six years.  This is shown in the following passages:

“7And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. 8 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.”

Exodus 21:7-8 (KJV)

“And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.”

Deuteronomy 15:12 (KJV)

The passages above show that neither male nor female Hebrew indentured servants could be kept indefinitely unless the male Hebrew willingly wanted to stay and serve (see Exodus 21:5-6) or the woman was taken as a wife by the man who purchased her either for himself or one of his sons.   Otherwise after 6 years male Hebrew indentured servants had to be freed and female Hebrew indentured servants had to be allowed to be purchased back by their male relatives or by another man wishing to take them as a wife.

And for those who think these daughters sold as maidservants could be used for sex outside a covenant of marriage, I would refer the reader to the following prohibition against fathers selling their daughters for this purpose:

“Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.”

Leviticus 19:29 (KJV)

So, it is clear that God did not allow Hebrews to sell or buy their fellow Hebrews as slaves.  They could only could only purchases the services of fellow Hebrews as indentured servants for a limited window of time.  However, it is equally clear that God did in fact allow the Hebrews to purchase the children of foreigners within their land as slaves or they could purchase slaves from the nations around them.

“44 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. 45 Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. 46 And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.”

Leviticus 25:44-46 (KJV)

And in the New Testament Paul gives the following command to slaves:

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;

Colossians 3:22 (KJV)

The word “servants” in the KJV passage above is a translation of the Greek word “Doulos” which actually means “slaves” and this is how most of the modern translations translate this verse.

This brings us back to wives.  We have already shown from the 10th commandment that it includes wives with male and female slaves as the property of men.  But the ownership of a husband over his wife is seen even clearer in the original Hebrew language of the Scriptures. The noun form of the Hebrew word ‘baal’ which means ‘owner/master’ is used eleven times in the Old Testament to speak of a husband’s relationship to his wife.    The word ‘baal’ is used an additional 11 times in verb form to refer to a woman coming to be ‘owned’, or married, to a husband.

The passage below from the book of Deuteronomy uses both the noun and verb form of the Hebrew word baal to illustrate a husband’s ownership over his wife:

“If a man be found lying with a woman married to an [verb ‘baal’ ‘owned by’]  husband [noun ‘baal’ ‘owner’], then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.”

Deuteronomy 22:22 (KJV)

In the New Testament the Apostle Peter refers back to this concept of a woman being owned by her husband when he admonishes wives to follow the example of the women of past generations like Sarah who “obeyed” her husband calling him “lord”:

“5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”

I Peter 3:5-6 (KJV)

Now having proven from the Bible that wives are actually considered by God to be property just as slaves are, we will go on to show that the responsibilities of owners toward these two types of human properties are very different.

8 Biblical Differences Between Wives and Slaves

As we have previously shown from Exodus 20:17 and Leviticus 25:44-46,  wives and slaves are both considered by God to be the property of men.  And both wives and slaves are commanded by God to obey their masters in everything as Colossians 3:22, Ephesians 5:24, 1 Peter 3:5-6 tells them to do.

But this is where the similarity between wives and slaves ends and the differences begin. Below are eight Biblical distinctions between wives and slaves.

1.  Slave owners don’t have to sacrifice themselves for their property – husbands do.

“25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it

Ephesians 5:25 (KJV)

2.  Slave owners don’t have to teach God’s Word to their property  – husbands do.

And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

1 Corinthians 14:35 (KJV)

3. Slave owners don’t have to act as human instruments of God’s sanctification in the lives of their property –  husbands do.

26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

Ephesians 5:26-27 (KJV)

4. Slave owners don’t have to love and care for their property as they do their own bodies – husbands do.

“28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church

Ephesians 5:28-29 (KJV)

5. Slave owners don’t have to give their bodies to meet the sexual needs of their property (nor should they) – husbands do.

“3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.”

I Corinthians 7:3-4 (KJV)

6. Slave owners don’t have to honor their property – husbands do.

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

I Peter 3:7 (KJV)

7. Slave owners don’t have to give their property the fruit of their labors – husbands do.

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Proverbs 31:31 (KJV)

8. God did not design men to be the property of other men.  God did design women to be the property of their husbands.

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. 10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

1 Corinthians 11:7-10 (KJV)

Conclusion

We have shown conclusively from the Bible that contrary to modern humanist notions of equality, God has actually designated wives and children as the property of their husbands and fathers. And again, contrary to modern egalitarian views of what marriage should be, God commands wives to regard their husbands as their masters and like slaves to be obedient to their masters in everything. The obvious exception for both wives and slaves in their obedience is if their masters command them to sin against God.  It is only in this case that they can and must disobey their masters as Acts 5:29 tells us.

The truth from the Scriptures is that there are indeed some similarities between wives and slaves but there are also significant differences between wives and slaves.

God created the relationship between a husband and wife to mirror the loving relationship between himself and his people.  A wife is to be regarded as her husband’s most precious possession, one that he cares for and would protect with his very life.

Another significant difference between wives and slaves is husbands as their wife’s owner and master are required by God to give their wife the fruit of her labors as Proverbs 31:31 states.   A slave is not entitled to enjoy any fruits from his labors.

Now this principle must be taken into account with the entire witness of the Scriptures.  In Ephesians 5:24 wives are commanded to submit to their husbands in “everything”. And yes, that would most certainly include finances.  Every dollar that comes into their home comes under the spiritual authority of the husband whether that is income from his work, his wife’s work or inheritances that either of them may acquire.  Even if the wife does not work outside the home but instead is a keeper in the home her work there has great value.

What this means is that whether a wife works outside the home or is a keeper of the home the husband should allow his wife to have fruits from her labor.  Practically speaking that means allowing her some discretionary use of money to buy things for the house or herself personally that she would like to buy.

Finally, on the topic of slavery. It is only because of the effects of sin in the world that God allowed for the practice of slavery but he commanded it to be done under humane conditions.  For a more in-depth look at the reasons and conditions under which God allowed for the practice of slavery see my article “Why Christians Should Not Be Ashamed of Slavery in The Bible”.

11 thoughts on “8 Biblical Differences Between Wives and Slaves

  1. Great article! You beat me to the punch, BGR, as I had just started writing a somewhat similar post a day or so ago about wives acting as “model employees” towards their husbands, as they are told in 1 Peter 3 to “likewise” act as the servants described in 1 Peter 2. Wives are servants of their husbands, but with much more benefit that what a standard servant would have been, which you have done a great job of pointing out here! Unfortunately I would say that 99% of christian women out there would bristle at being called a servant of their husband, or if they were told they have the same responsibilities of being obedient as a servant or employee might be. In fact, that was going to be the point of my post: Treat your husband with the same respect, obedience and reverence you would have treated your boss with, seeing as how the majority of women have now held some kind of job. Your boss as work would give you a task and expect it to be done as they said within the time they said, and you, as an employee, would have worked to get that job done in the prescribed manner and in the prescribed frame of time. Why then do you fight against your husband who has MORE authority over you than an employer?

    I can only imagine what Facebook is saying about this one. 😂

  2. For those who think biblical marriage and gender roles makes a wife a slave, I think you disputed that very well with the differences list. While there might be some similarities such as a wife having to respect and obey her husband, the differences you point out change everything and throw their “she’s a slave” argument right out the window!

  3. A very good explanation. A few more supporting thoughts.

    When you speak of “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord…” 1 Peter 3:6 (KJV) – The word “lord” there is the Greek word “kurios” which litterally means: lord, master.
    From the HELPS Word-studies: 2962 kýrios – properly, a person exercising absolute ownership rights; lord.
    It is the same word that we use when we call Jesus “Lord”, acknowledging Him as our Owner and Master.

    Accordingly, the Greek word “doulos”, literately means: a slave
    From the HELPS Word-studies: 1401 doúlos – properly, someone who belongs to another; a bond-slave, without any ownership rights of their own.
    Paul (Romans 8:1), James (James 1:1), Peter (2 Peter 1:1) all call themselves “doulos”, bond-slaves of Jesus Christ. They understood that they were PURCHASED and OWNED by Christ.

    I think that is was easier for women of the Bible times to understand their positions of “being owned” by their husbands because they were purchased by their husbands from their fathers and many had no say in the matter of what man bought them and to whom they would be sold into marriage. It was ultimately up to their fathers.

    This ownership of wives by their husbands (but the husbands having legal responsibilities for and to their wives) persisted for centuries in one form or another in most cultures. It persisted in the United States into the late 19th century with the abolition of Coverture (developed from English common law). It was actually 1979, when Louisiana became the last of the states in the U.S. to have its “Head and Master law” struck down.

    Even in my marriage in the late 1980’s, we had was was considered a “traditional” service where at one point the pastor asked “Who gives this woman to this man?” and her father said “I do”. This paid homage to the old days when it was understood that a father owned his daughter. How could someone “give” away something they did not own? I wonder when that started? When exactly, in the progression of modern feminism, did fathers determine that their daughters were no longer valuable enough to “sell” so they had to resort to “giving” them away? (tongue in cheek)

    Most (ignorant) people now days would call you a $%&@ liar if you even suggested that wives, for the vast majority of history, were legally considered to be the property of their husbands.

    Bottom line, wives are to consider their husbands their owners and masters and treat them as such. God gives husbands commands as to how they are to treat their wives but even if a husband does a poor job of this, wives are still commanded to submit to and obey their husbands (1 Peter 3:1).

  4. By the way: The Biblical term baal which translates as both owner and husband is still used in modern Hebrew in Israel today. A married Israeli man says about his wife “I’m her owner” in the same way he can say about his car “I’m its owner”. Israeli feminists tried to rid modern Hebrew of this term and replace it for something non-hierarchical, no success so far.

  5. ” Israeli feminists tried to rid modern Hebrew of this term and replace it for something non-hierarchical, no success so far.”

    The term they use is “ish” which simply means man. They say “my man” instead of “my husband”. From what I have seen, feminism is running rampant in Israel; slut walks and all.

  6. The idea of wives as slaves to their husbands is a stratagem of Satan. Ol Lucifer is jealous of what is good and beautiful and so seeks to sow fear and contention. There is no salvation for Beelzebub, Christ’s blood does not cover his sins. Although created perhaps more glorious than Adam, he was not elected to be adopted into the household of faith. He knows that marriage is a type of Christ and the church, something that has just got to scorch his tail. What better way to mar the image of the gospel than convince and cajole women that submission is not beautiful and blessed but rather a cruel slavery, an undignified affront. The campaign has the added bonus of creating discord, undermining the pillars of civilization and picturing Christ as a cruel tyrant without ever having to say it.

    I recently listened to a book entitled “The surrendered wife”. The book was written by a secular woman who has discovered the beauty of submission and the near universal need for wives to repent. The author discovered that by her submission, her husband grew in leadership, and found more opportunities to love on her. Letting go of her control she found joy and her husband blossomed into the man of her desires and respect.

    This is what the adversary wants to destroy, the sublime beauty of a submitted wife. Women have been cheated out of manifold blessings by the lies of the destroyer. Lies like “doormat”, “slave”, and “victim”. Weep because the church is propagating these fears to tingle the itching ears of women. Weep indeed.

  7. I think it important to recognize the concept of “bride price”. The man who would become a husband had to be able to demonstrate his ability to provide for his wife / wives. Jacob served 14 years for Rachel, Jesus paying the ultimate price for his bride, the church.
    The death penalty only occurred when a man had sex with another man’s wife (property) and defiled her. If she was not married, it was still a serious offense, but not a capitol crime. The man who had sex with the woman had either marry her, if her father consented (shotgun wedding) or pay the bride price. A woman who was no longer a virgin significantly lost “value” in the community and was more difficult to marry off. If a woman was offered to a man and was found to not be a virgin, than this became ground for defrauding the potential husband. A bride’s parents would keep the wedding sheets as proof of virginity, because once the hymen was broken it would leave a blood stain. This is why marriage is a blood covenant. The ceremony is good an all, but without consummation, the shedding of blood, there is no marriage. Each time a man and woman comes together through sex, the covenant is renewed.
    In our society, we may not pay upfront for the right to marry, but men do as the relationship blossoms. I sometimes tease my daughters that I am looking for someone to take over the payments for them;) People often do not think of the implications that casual sex has on a society and before God. The two become one flesh through sex, whether people believe it or not.

  8. “Wives and Children Designated by God as Property and Slaves Allowed as Property” It should be “Wives and Children ARE Designated by God as Property and Slaves Allowed as Property.” “God authorized Israelite fathers to sell their daughters as indentured servants for a period of no longer than six years.” The scriptures you cite to follow this does not say that a woman goes free after six years, but that her master must allow her to be bought back if he deals deceitfully with her, no mention of any time period. Only the man goes free. Wonderful article though, BGR! 🙂 Keep it up! By the way, what happened to the Facebook page for this blog? Before it vanish, your Head Covoerings articles entry there did.

  9. Tyler,

    In regard to your statement:
    “he scriptures you cite to follow this does not say that a woman goes free after six years, but that her master must allow her to be bought back if he deals deceitfully with her, no mention of any time period. Only the man goes free.”

    “7And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. 8 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.”

    Exodus 21:7-8 (KJV)

    “And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.”

    Deuteronomy 15:12 (KJV)

    The important phrase in verse 7 is “she shall not go out AS the menservants do” and specifically the word “AS”. In other words male Hebrew indentured servants had to be freed after six years with no redemption necessary, because they were male. But female indentured Hebrew servants were to be let go “AS”, or in the same way as male Hebrew servants. Instead we find in verse 8 that if the man who bought the Hebrew woman as an indentured servant was not pleased to take her as a wife for himself or one of his sons that he must allow her to be redeemed – which refers to her either being bought back by her own family or her being purchased by another man for his wife.

    The point was that God wanted Hebrew women to be able to become wives and not to be kept indefinitely as indentured servants.

    And while the time frame is not mentioned in Exodus 21:7-8 for female indentured servants, we see it mentioned in Deuteronomy 15:12. We must always take the entirety of the Scriptures into account on any subject.

    On the subject of my Facebook page. I stated the following in my recent article “Has BGR Been Doxed?

    “This is one way I know whoever did this did not hack Facebook and they do not work for Facebook because if they did, they would have found the real me based off my Biblical Gender Roles Facebook page because I buy ads and those ads are tied to my payment information. And Facebook has made me confirm my identity multiple times with my phone over the years because of people claiming I was a Facebook troll.

    With that being said I am strongly considering dropping my Biblical Gender Roles Facebook page just in case someone in the future at Facebook wants to try and leak my real behind the scenes info from that page or some hacker gets into it.”

    So I did decide to drop my Facebook page as I was concerned with the way Facebook is going that they will in the future begin helping to dox conservatives. We are in the midst of a full scale cultural civil cold war right now. I felt I needed to take precautions as a result. However If one of my readers wants to start their own page on Facebook and post my articles I have no issue with that.

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