Does the Bible Teach that Women are Second Class Citizens?

I recently received an email from a woman asking for Scriptural proof that that God does not want women to be treated as second class citizens.  She could have sent this email to a lot of Christian sites and they may have sent her back Scriptures that they believe support the idea that women should be treated completely equal with men.

The most common Scripture passage used to try and say the Bible supports equal rights for women is found in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 (KJV)

The advocates for woman’s rights hail this verse saying that it teaches that God intends for there to be absolutely no distinction and thus completely equal rights between men and women. But is this passage from Galatians God’s complete revelation on the subject of gender? We will explore the answer to that question later in this article.

I have changed the name of the woman who wrote me to Lauren in order protect her anonymity as she gave me her real name in the email.  What follows are several statements from her in the email and my response to her showing her from the Bible what God’s Word says on this issue.

LAUREN’S STATEMENT:

“I am raising daughters that have been in an environment that teaches them that women are second class… Do you know any podcast, bible verses, bible studies, websites, etc that can guide them back to trusting the Bible as God’s word and that the verses are not intending women to be second class citizens?”

MY RESPONSE:

First, we need to define what treating someone like a “second class citizen” is.  In common language usage today treating someone like a second-class citizen would be to show disdain for them or mistreat them in some way.  If we were talking about treating with disdain or hatred we can easily show that Biblically speaking this is wrong.  We are to be kind to all people no matter what their race, gender or ethnicity is.   We are also to treat others as we would want to be treated as Christ exhorted us in what has become known as “The Golden Rule”:

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12 (KJV)

But often times this rule that we should treat others as we would want to be treated is vastly abused by many to cancel out entire sections of the Scriptures.

I get people writing me all the time saying “You only believe the way you do because you are a man and it is advantageous to you to believe in Biblical Gender Roles.  If you were a woman you would not so easily believe in such things.”   You know what my response is to such assertions? I tell them if I was a woman like my mother or my daughter or many other godly women I knew growing up I would absolutely believe the way I do about Biblical Gender Roles.  I don’t believe in Biblical Gender Roles because it is advantageous to me as a man – I believe in Biblical Gender Roles because that it is what the Bible teaches.

Trust me, it is not easy living counter to the culture you live in.  It is also not as easy as women think to be a man especially in this day when masculinity is attacked and women no longer respect men. Marriage has become more of a battlefield today than it ever was thanks to feminism poisoning the minds of women. Many men have just given up and given the reigns to their wife and they do whatever she says and whatever makes her happy.  That is taking the easy and cowardly way out.

Returning back to the subject of women being treated as second-class citizens – we are not talking about mistreating women in the sense of treating them with disdain, dishonor or unkindness by Biblical standards.

The key phrase in my last statement is “by Biblical standards”.   Our culture has a whole different set of standards by which women are said to be treated with disdain, dishonor and in an inhumane way.  Before I speak to this let me give a dictionary definition of a “second class citizen” according to https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/second-class_citizen:

“A person belonging to a social or political group whose rights and opportunities are inferior to those of the dominant group in a society.”

So, if one social group of people has inferior rights and opportunities to that of some other dominant group than they are said to be treated as second class citizens.

American and Western culture in general have devised a new standard of treating someone as “less than a person” or treating someone in “an inhumane way”.  The standard is equal rights.  If a culture has different classes of people with different classes of rights then they are said to be treating those people with hatred, disdain and in an inhumane manner.  No one is allowed to question this modern definition of treating someone in an inhumane way.

In fact, in America we have sacrificed the doctrines of our Christian faith as well as our marriages and many other things on the altar to our false god of equality.  It is ok if we worship the Christian god too, as long as our service to the god of equality comes first.

So now the question then becomes does the Bible advocate for women to be treated as second class citizens to men according to the dictionary definition I just gave?

The answer simply put is YES.  The Bible does in fact advocate for women to be treated as second class citizens to men if “second class citizen” simply means they are to have less rights and opportunities than men.

In fact, women occupy the second of three social classes of humanity that God designed.

The Three Social Classes Ordained by God

Contrary to modern Western and American ideals about equality God’s original design of mankind features a social order with three classes of people.

God’s First-Class Citizen – Man as God’s Image Bearer

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:27 (KJV)

There are a great number of Christian theologians that misread this famous Biblical account of the creation of man and woman.  This passage does NOT teach that God created “them” (male and female) in his image. It clearly states “in the image of God created he HIM”. Many Christian teachers (even non-feminist teachers) have tried to argue that because “man” can refer to mankind that this can mean “So God created mankind in his own image”.  That is absolutely true that sometimes “man” (or Adam as it is in the original Hebrew) can refer to an individual man or mankind in general. The problem with this interpretation in this particular passage is found in the second phrase with the word “him” which is a translation of the Hebrew phrase “eth haa-‘adam” which literally means “this same man”.

So in Genesis 1:27 the Scriptures are telling us “God created Adam in his own image, in the image of God created he this same Adam.  Male and Female created he them.”

This passage tells us two very important truths.  God created man (male human beings) in his image and also that he created women as well.  It does not say he created women in his image, only that he created women.

And if there was any doubt as to the correct interpretation of this passage God gave the Apostle Paul this divine commentary on Genesis account:

“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.” I Corinthians 11:7 (KJV)

God’s Second-Class Citizen – Woman the helper to man

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” – Genesis 2:18 (KJV)

In Genesis chapter 2 we see that God did not want Adam to be alone and so he created a helper for him.  Now a helper can be one in authority (like a manager who helps his workers), a helper can be an equal partner or a helper can be a subordinate.  So which kind of helper did not create Eve to be? The Genesis account tells us that Adam named her type “woman” and later he even gave her personal name which was Eve.  This was a sign that she would be a subordinate helper, not an authority helper nor an equal partner.  Throughout the Old Testament this is maintained when we see that men ruled over women and that husbands could override any decision of their wives and fathers could override any decision of their daughters (Numbers 30).

Multiple New Testament passages confirm that woman was designed by God to be a subordinate helper to man.

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” I Peter 3:1-2 (KJV)

“22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” Ephesians 5:22-24 (KJV)

God designed woman to be man’s subordinate helper in many ways.  She helps him by bearing and caring for his home and his children (1 Timothy 5:14). She helps him by being a faithful companion (Proverbs 31:11, Malachi 2:14). She helps him by bringing him sexual pleasure (Proverbs 5:15-19).  But another way she helps her husband is simply by being “the weaker vessel” (1 Timothy 5:14) and needing his leadership, provision and protection.  A man cannot fully image God as he was designed to do without being a husband and father and woman helps him in this way to fulfill image God to his fullest capability.

So, if you are asking “Why did God make women to be second class citizens?” the answer is found in a passage we just stated above:

“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” Ephesians 5:23 (KJV)

Not only was man made to image God and thus bring glory to him but marriage between a man and woman was made by God to model the relationship between God and his people. So, by fully embracing their status as second-class citizens to men women help men to fully image God and also model the relationship between God and his people.

To our equality obsessed world this makes no sense but this is why we as Christians are called to honor women for being the second-class citizens God designed them to be (I Peter 3:7).

Let me put this another way.  God could have made a partner for man that was his equal in every way. In fact, God could have created man as a hermaphrodite (with both sexes) and then humans could have just chosen any other human as partners. They could have equally broken up the division of having children, caring for the home, leading, providing and protecting.  If what I just said sounds familiar it is because this is exactly what our culture does today.  We promote homosexuality and gender equality – both ideologies which are in direct contradiction to God’s Word and his design.

But if humans existed in pair bonded relationships as equals this would not have properly modeled the relationship of God to his people.  Only if there were two genders with one dependent on the other for their leadership, provision and protection could the relationship of God to his people be properly modeled.

God’s Third-Class Citizen – Children as God’s inheritance to man

“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)

While man does not create life in exactly the same way God does – God wanted man to have a taste of his ability to create life and in this way, he blessed man with the ability to father children.

Children help both men and women to fulfill their God given God given roles by having someone who needs their care and support.  Children help men to exercise their father role in the way God is father to his children.

Summary of God’s three ordained social classes

Now let’s summarize the three classes and how they relate to one another. Men are to be the image bearers of God. One of the ways a man images God is by loving his wife as Christ loved his Church. Another way a man images God is by loving his children as God loves his children.  Women are to show respect and deference toward men in general and specific obedience and submission toward their father and later their husband.  Children are to show respect and deference to adult men and women and they are specifically to obey and honor their father and mother.  This is God’s original creation design and order of humanity.

A fourth social class allowed by God because of Sin

Sin’s entrance into the world resulted in crime, laziness, poverty and war.  These four human conditions would necessitate that God allow for a fourth class of citizen which is that of a slave.

“If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service.  He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee.  He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers.  For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale.  You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God.  As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you.  Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession.  You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.”  Leviticus 25:39-46 (NASB)

While God allowed for slavery he also specifically gave rules regarding the humane treatment of slaves and the conditions under which slavery may occur.  The version of slavery that occurred in North and South America neither met the conditions allowed for slavery or the treatment of slaves.  See my article “Why Christians should not be ashamed of Slavery in the Bible” for more on this subject.

Is a woman’s second-class status only applicable if she is married or living with her father?

Some might think by the passages I mentioned previously that a woman’s second-class status only applies to her if she is married or perhaps is still a young woman living at home with her father.  Such thinking is flawed and does not take into account the entire witness of the Scriptures.  Yes, God allows and even praises celibacy in both women and men (I Corinthians 7).  However, celibacy is God’s exception to his first command to mankind to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) and to keep this command men and women must marry, have sex and have children.

Even if a woman feels called by God to celibacy in his service this does not remove her second-class status.  Paul’s divine commentary on the Genesis account of the creation of man and woman makes this clear.

“3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

7 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. 8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. 9 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.”

I Corinthians 11:3-10 (KJV)

This is one of the most controversial and most un-preached passages in modern churches today. Why? Because it blows away our entire “equality based society”.  Men and women are equal in their humanity because woman was taken from man. However, Paul explains why women were to wear head coverings in worship services – because they were to reflect the order of God’s creation.  Notice there is no mention in this passage of marriage or the relationship between a husband and wife. Instead this speaks to the social order between men and women in general.  This is why women regardless of their marital status are to wear a sign of authority on their head when they come to worship.

LAUREN’S STATEMENT:

 “We attended home church and was told that women are to be submissive to their husbands, and not speak in the church.”

MY RESPONSE:

If you had church services in your home (as many churches do) then your husband would be right in teaching that you and your daughters should remain silent and simply listen during the spiritual instruction given by the men.  This is actually very clearly taught in the Scriptures.

“11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” 1 Timothy 2:11-13 (KJV)

Now does these mean women can never speak in their home because it is also used for church services? No.  Paul even commands that elder women are to teach younger women in the Lord when he writes:

“3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Titus 2:1-5 (KJV)

So, it is perfectly Biblical for elder women in the Lord to conduct women’s Bible studies in their home or maintain blogs online with other women as long as this occurs under the authority of their husbands.  The women teaching should teach what is in accordance with their husband’s teachings and the women attending should do so with their husband’s permission.

LAUREN’S STATEMENT:

 “Some of the men in the church were not very caring and loving husbands and they did not honor their wives.  Last year I realized that my efforts to be a proverbs 31 wife has led me to have a relationship that is not what I consider to be what God wants.  My husband is verbally abusive, self-centered, and has neglected his role as Father and Husband.”

MY RESPONSE:

Who determines if a husband is acting in a caring or loving way toward his wife or honoring his wife? I can tell you who does not determine this.  Neither his wife nor his children. Ultimately it is God himself who judges whether your husband is caring and loving to you and honoring you in the way God expects of him.  And how does he determine God’s will in these areas? By examining the Scriptures and how God loves his wife.

Now this is not to say that men should not listen to the counsel of other men whether it be their fathers or their pastors or other spiritually mature men in the Lord.  The Scriptures tell us “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14).  Also, men should hear their wife’s concerns but men must weigh their wife’s concerns by the Word of God. Is what she is asking for within the commands or example of God’s love toward his wife? Maybe.  But is it also possible that how a wife feels her husband should care for her and love her is not warranted or commanded by the Scriptures? Could she actually be selfishly ambitious for a type of love that God does not entitle her to?

For instance, what is verbally abusive? If a man simply raises his voice to his wife is that verbally abusive? You won’t find that anywhere in the Scriptures. If a man calls his wife foolish for acting or talking in a certain way is that verbally abusive? No – in fact we have the example of one of the most righteous men in the Bible doing just that with his wife and the Scriptures tell us he did not sin in doing so (Job 2:10).

LAUREN’S STATEMENT:

“As my daughters are growing up they are rejecting this unfair situation and are questioning the Bible.  They see how there are many verses that are not in favor of women and that we are not as entitled as men… My daughters are losing interest in the Bible as they feel how can God want us to be treated unfairly and they also think that because men wrote the Bible that their sin and attitude about women is revealed in their writing.”

MY RESPONSE:

If I had a dime for every woman that wrote me over the past few years saying something like this “Thanks for confirming for me from the Bible why I never want to be a Christian” or “Thanks for helping me to leave the Christian faith your gender role teachings” I would be a wealthy man. The Atheist emails are especially humorous with their “I love your site – keep up the good preaching! You will convert everyone to atheists like me.”

I have had others write me things like “Please stop teaching these gender role doctrines.  The Gospel is the most important thing people need to believe but people will never come to hear the Gospel if they first hear these gender role doctrines.  Let them discover these passages on their own and decide for themselves what they believe.  Stop putting a stumbling block for people coming to Christ.”

What are all these complaints really saying? They are saying that Christians need to leave behind anything in the Bible that conflicts with our modern culture.  We need to teach people what makes them feel good and things that match the values of our culture or so we are told.  A lot of big churches today do just that.  Even many small churches do this.  The sad fact is only a small percentage of Christian Churches today follow Paul’s example when he stated in Acts 20:27 “for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” 

The fact is the doctrines of Biblical gender roles are part of “the whole counsel of God”.  Pastors and Christian teachers do exactly what the Apostle Paul warned them NOT to do:

“1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2 Timothy 4:1-4 (KJV)

What do most Pastors and Christian teachers do today? They teach only what their congregation’s itching ears want to hear.  They have conformed themselves to the pattern of this world and the culture we live instead of transforming their minds and seeing the sin that the lays before them in our culture as the Bible exhorts us to do:

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2 (KJV)

We need to pray for preachers who will once again not be afraid to preach “Thus saith the Lord”.

But Christ didn’t treat women as second-class citizens!

The truth is that there are many Christian Pastors and teachers today that “preacheth another Jesus” (II Corinthians 11:4).  The Christ they preach is a feminized Christ who is not Lord of all, but one who bows the knee to the false god of equality.

Some online articles try and point to the fact that Jesus broke some social norms of his age when it came to interactions with women and that somehow shows he was a feminist or rejected patriarchy as I have shown the Bible clearly supports.

Their supposed evidence for this is that Jesus encouraged women to sit and listen to him rather than doing house work while he taught (Luke 10:38-42), he spoke to a Samaritan woman (John 4:6-30) or that he had women followers who came along with his disciples.

None of these actions by Christ prove one iota that Christ did not in fact treat women as second-class citizens to men.  What it proves is that he believed the men had had gone too far in forbidding women to hear the teaching of God’s Word (which many did).

Did Christ have even one of his twelve Apostles whom he commissioned to build his Church be a woman? No, he did not. Did Christ one time tell women they should be social equals with men? No, he did not.  Did he tell women not to submit to their husbands? No, he did not.

But the biggest problem with saying Jesus Christ believed in treating women completely equal with men is the fact that his Word says otherwise! Remember that what the Prophets before Christ and the Apostles after Christ wrote came directly from God.  Some Christians falsely believe that the words Christ spoke while he walked among men are more authoritative then the words he gave to his Apostles after he ascended to heaven. To attack the teachings of the Apostles like Peter and Paul regarding gender roles is to attack Christ himself who gave them his Word.

Conclusion

We have shown that those who use Paul’s statement that “there is neither male nor female“ in Galatians 3:28 and Christ’s actions in teaching women have built a false platform of support of equal rights for women.  When we examine the whole counsel of God as found in the entirety of the Scriptures we see this is not the case.

If you are a Christian woman who feels as Lauren and her daughters do toward your husband, father or just men in general this is what you need to do.  You need to heed the words of the Apostle James where he wrote:

“13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” James 3:13-16 (NIV)

As a woman who feels the way Lauren and her daughters do – you need to recognize your feelings for what they are when measured against the Word of God.  If you desire anything God did not intend for you to have that is by definition selfish ambition.  If you are desire the status that someone else has that is envy.

If you as a woman desire to be a first-class citizen – meaning to have all the rights and privileges of a man, then you have selfish ambition and envy in your heart.  You need to get down on your knees and pray the prayer of David in Psalm 51:10 where he prays “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” You need to fully embrace your position as the weaker vessel and your place in God’s design.

If you are a father, husband or teachers of God’s Word you must have the courage to stand firm against the evil attitudes and ambitions in the women of our age.

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

I Corinthians 16:13 (NASB)

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School sends sheriff to order 7-year-old boy to stop sharing Bible verses

We need to accommodate children with gender dysphoria (aka transgender) but we will not accommodate children who give out Bible verses to their friends at lunch. This is the completely wicked and utterly absurd world that we are living in today.

Here are some parts of the story as reported by Fox News:

“A public school in California ordered a 7-year-old boy to stop handing out Bible verses during lunch – and they dispatched a deputy sheriff to the child’s home to enforce the directive…

Here’s the back story:

Mrs. Zavala made it a practice of including a Bible verse and encouraging note in her son’s lunch bag. The boy would tell his friends about the note and read them aloud at the lunch table.

It wasn’t long before children asked for copies of the notes and Mrs. Zavala obliged – including a brief note to explain the daily Bible verse.

On April 18 a teacher called Mrs. Zavala and said her son would no longer be able to share the Bible verses because he was “not allowed to share such things while at school.”

But on May 9, the school’s principal decided to implement a complete ban on the Bible verse sharing.”

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/06/03/school-sends-sheriff-to-order-child-to-stop-sharing-bible-verses.html

The words of the Prophet Isaiah cry out against the wickedness of our modern American culture:

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Isaiah 5:20 (KJV)

Besides these actions being wicked by God’s standards – they are utterly unconstitutional by American legal standards.  Thankfully the Liberty Counsel has agreed to represent this mother and her son and they had this to say about this situation according to Fox News:

““This is a clear, gross violation of the rights of a child,” said Horatio Mihet, a Liberty Counsel attorney representing the first-grader who attends Desert Rose Elementary School in Palmdale. They are also representing his parents, Christina and Jaime Zavala.”

“The deputy sheriff said he had been sent by the school,” Liberty Counsel attorney Richard Mast told me. “The deputy went on to tell the parents that the school was worried that someone might be offended by the Bible verses.”

“If students are permitted to pass out Valentine or birthday cards at school or to talk about Superman and Captain America at lunch, they cannot be prohibited from sharing Bible verses and discussing their faith during their free, non-instructional time,” Mihet told me.”

We as Christians need to use every tool at our disposal to fight against those forces in our culture which want to silence Christianity.

Yes some people are offended by hearing the Bible no doubt.

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12(KJV)

The Bible offends them because it pricks their conscience and show them where they fall short of God’s standards or “miss the mark” which is literally what sin is.

This is one of the reasons that people hate the Scriptures that I show on this blog regarding Biblical gender roles. They don’t want to be told that they are not living up to God’s unique standards and plans for each gender.  They don’t want anyone telling them how God would have them to live their lives.

I had a situation when my son was in elementary school where his teacher told him he could not bring his Bible to school to read at lunch – needless to say I took care of that quickly and the teacher never bothered him again.

I have told my children they should not be reading a Bible or trying to talk to kids about their faith during instruction times unless the teacher is asking them questions that would lead to them sharing their faith. But what they do during their free time at school is different.  God has given us certain rights and worshiping him, reading his Word and sharing our faith is one of our many God given rights.

Our founding fathers believed that all men were “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” and while we may as Christians agree or disagree on what all those rights are one of the rights we agree on is the right to worship God and talk about our faith.

When schools, local governments, state governments or even the Federal government impede upon these God given rights our founders said of those who rights are violated that “it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government”.

In other words sometimes as Christians we must practice civil disobedience even if we are arrested or threatened. In the Scriptures Daniel practiced civil disobedience when he was ordered not to pray to God and when the Apostles were ordered to stop preaching about Christ they said “We ought to obey God rather than men.”(Acts 5:29)

I pray that more Christians will have the courage that this mother and her young son are having and stand up and fight against this tyranny of secularism in our schools and higher education facilities that would silence Christians from expressing their faith in public settings.

Does the Bible teach the concept of “Human Property”?

 

Now that we have discussed Biblical laws allowing and regulating slavery, I want to discuss the Biblical concept of “Human property”.  I realize that just the idea of thinking that a human being could be property is absolutely appalling to our modern western values. When we think of human beings as property, we imagine people being abused and hurt by their “owner”.  But what does the Bible say about the concept of human beings as property?

In the Bible a man’s wife and children were considered his property

Happy family hugging isolated on white

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” – Exodus 20:17 (NASB)

This is idea of a man’s wife and child being considered his “human property” is confirmed by these other teachings of the Bible:

A man paid a bride price to a woman’s father for her hand in marriage – the father did not have to consider his daughter’s wishes in the man he chose for her.

A man paid the bride price to a woman’s father if he had pre-marital sex with her, and the father still had the choice of whether he would give his daughter to this man in marriage. Pre-marital sex was considered a property crime against the father of virgin that had been defiled.

When a man committed adultery with another man’s wife he and she could be executed. This was considered a property crime against the woman’s husband. If a married man had sex with a prostitute this was not considered adultery, but rather the sin of Whoremongering as no property crime was committed.

The fact that a man was allowed under Biblical law to sell his son or daughter as a slave confirms that children were considered the property of their father (assuming he was a free man, and not a slave who had been given a wife by his master).

The only exception to this idea of a man’s wife and children being his property was if the man was a slave and his master gave him another slave as a wife. If the male slave were to freed, the master did not have to release his wife and children with him.

Different types of Human property

While all slaves Biblically speaking would be considered human property (unless they were a fellow Hebrew male and then only seed as a temporary hired worker), not all of those who are considered human property were slaves.

A wife while she her husband’s property, is not his slave. A child while is the human property of his father – is not his slave.

Even though Wives and children were also considered human property they had the same human rights as slaves and then even more rights.

The Bible gives an example of this difference of rights between those who were considered human property when it shows in Exodus 21:9-11 when a man gives his female slave to his son as a wife. The Bible states she must be given the full rights of a daughter and a wife – even though she remained human property.

The Treatment of Human Property

Most people in our modern society have the idea that if a person is regarded as human property, that the owner of that person can treat them any way they wish. This could not be further from the truth. I highly suggest that you read my post “Biblical Human Rights vs American Human Rights” and see the section entitled “8 Biblical Human Rights”. These are rights that every human being has, whether they are considered the human property of another person or not.

Children as Human property

Most Americans, while they might not like the use of the word “property” when referring to their children basically regard their children as their property. I would argue that they have a Biblical right to do so. That is why parents get angry when doctors or school officials do things without parental consent. “That is my child, and you did not have my permission to do this or that with them against my wishes” – this is a phrase that is heard quite often from parents, and our legal system for the most part supports this concept of parental consent.

As parents God meant for us to have complete control over things like our children’s education and medical treatment. God meant for us a parents to mold our children through discipline and training to respect and obey not only our authority as parents, but other authorities that God places in their life whether they are teachers in school, church authorities or civil authorities.

Because God places the greatest responsibility on a father and then secondarily to a mother, he gives parents the most power over a child’s life. This is why schools, churches and the government need to be careful to stay within the realm of authority God has given them when they are working with children as God has given the ultimate human authority in a child’s life to their father and mother.

Wives as Human property

Seeing a wife as the human property of her husband sounds degrading and insulting to most Americans and westerners. But there are still some devout men and women of the Christian faith that have no problem with this concept.

As believers we are told that we are not our own, that we belong to God. Christian Men, women and children – it makes no difference we all belong to God.

“…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20(NASB)

Most Christians have no problem with the concept that we all belong to God. It is only when God delegates his ownership over us to a fallible human being that we begin to have a problem.

For Christians who reject the concept of male headship as taught in the Scriptures – it is impossible for them to even conceive of a wife being the property of her husband as they see marriage as an equal partnership.

But even for some Christians who embrace the concept of male headship as taught in God’s Word – they still struggle with this concept of a wife being the property of her husband. The reason is because they fear the abuse of such power and with good reason as many men have abused this power God has given them over their wives.

But the abuse of power by those in authority, whether in government, the church or the home does not negate the truth that God teaches about authority and ownership in the family. God has delegated his ownership of the family – the wife and the children to the husband and father.

God teaches that when women and children willingly submit to the authority of the husband and father in the home – he blesses them and it is a testimony to the world of God’s power. When a husband uses the power God has given him, not for his own sinful and selfish desires but for the glory of God he blesses his entire family through his leadership, provision and protection(I Peter 3:1-6).

Some Christian women who embrace the concept of male headship may ask for more direct evidence than the passages I supplied so far for God seeing a husband as the owner of his wife.

In the next couple of sections I will show more direct evidence from the Scriptures that husbands do in fact own their wives.

Ownership of wives shown in the Old Testament

There are two Hebrew words that the Old Testament translates for us in English as “husband”. The first one ‘ish’ literally means “man”, but it is translated a “husband” whenever the context is talking about a husband and wife. The second word that the Hebrew Scriptures use for “husband” is “baal” which literally means “Owner/lord”. This same Hebrew word is used to refer owner of something.

First here are some examples of the use of the Hebrew word “baal” that are not in speaking of a husband and wife:

“If a man opens a pit, or digs a pit and does not cover it over, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner [baal – “owner”] of the pit shall make restitution; he shall give money to its owner [baal – “owner”], and the dead animal shall become his.” – Exodus 21:33-34 (NASB)

“Then the man, the owner [baal – “owner”] of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my fellows, please do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not commit this act of folly.” – Judges 19:23 (NASB)

In Exodus 21:33-34 we see that “baal” refers both the owner of a piece of land and another owner of and ox or a donkey. In Judges 19:23 – “baal” refers the owner of a house.

Now let’s move on to examples of “baal” in reference to the relationship of a husband and a wife:

“Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the Negev, and settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he sojourned in Gerar. Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married [baal – “she has an owner”].” – Genesis 20:1-3 (NASB)

“If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband [baal – “owner”] of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him.” – Exodus 21:3 (NASB)

“If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband [baal – “owner”] may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide.” – Exodus 21:22 (NASB)

“An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.

 The heart of her husband [baal – “owner”] trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.

 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.” – Proverbs 31:10-12 (NASB)

There are more passages that use “baal” to refer to a husband being the lord and owner of his wife but I think the ones I have provided here are ample evidence to this Biblical teaching.

What about Hosea 2:16?

Some egalitarians actually will concede the inequality in the relationship between a husband and wife in the Old Testament. But they believe that Hosea 2:16, speaking of the coming Christ, shows that God makes the husband and wife relationship no longer a owner/owned relationship but rather and equal partnership.

“It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord, “That you will call Me Ishi[man/husband]

And will no longer call Me Baali[lord/owner].” – Hosea 2:16 (NASB)

There is a problem with this egalitarian interpretation that God was going to change marriage from an owner/owned relationship to an equal partnership with coming of Christ. Apparently the Apostles Paul and Peter did not get the memo – because those Apostles wrote these passages under the inspiration of God:

“For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” – Ephesians 5:23-24(NASB)

“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior… For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands;  just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord” – I Peter 3:1-2 & 5-6 (NASB)

Peter was actually pointing back to the Old Testament’s use of “baal – lord/owner” in reference to a husband and he was reminding Christian women that the holy women of old treating their husband’s as their lords and owners was the example that God still wanted them to follow in marriage.

When we look at Hosea in context we understand what God was actually trying to teach us:

“It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord,
“That you will call Me Ishi
And will no longer call Me Baali.
“For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth,
So that they will be mentioned by their names no more.” – Hosea 2:16-17 (NASB)

Verse 17 helps us to understand what God was talking about. Over many centuries the word baal which started off just meaning “Lord/Owner/Husband” was perverted to refer to the false God’s the Israelites began to worship. God was saying that he no longer wanted to be referred to as baal(our master, our owner) – because that now came to refer to false gods. He now only wanted to be called “ishi” or husband because that word had not been perverted.

The Greatest evidence that God has made the husband the owner of his wife

I could have lead with this evidence as it is the strongest and most indisputable evidence that God has made husbands the owners of their wives. But I first wanted to show the pattern of husband’s being their wives owners throughout the Old Testament.

Many Christians will gladly accept the fact that God designed marriage as a picture of Christ and his Church as shown in Ephesians 5:22-33. In fact this is the favorite part of Ephesians 5 by those who take the equal partnership view of is this passage:

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

Ephesians 5:25 (KJV)

But if we are going to accept the fact that marriage was designed by God to be a model of the relationship between Christ and his Church then we must accept ALL aspects of the relationship between God and his Church.

So what that means is if we fully embrace the fact that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved his Church then we must equally accept that the husband is the head of the wife and she must submit to her husband in “everything”(Ephesians 5:24).

Also in accepting the fact that marriage is a model of the relationship between Christ and his Church we must accept that the attributes of that relationship are not confined to Ephesians 5:22-33.  The attributes of that relationship are found throughout the New Testament from Matthew to Revelation.

Finally this brings us to a little known attribute of the relationship of Christ and his Church as found in the book of Acts:

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

 Acts 20:28 (KJV)
And there it is. Christ purchased his wife(the Church) just as men purchased their wives in the Old Testament. Can anyone deny that Christ owns his Church?
You cannot accept that marriage is a model of the relationship between Christ and his Church and only accept certain aspects of that relationship.  You must accept all the attributes of that relationship or none of them.

Conclusion

I doubt I have changed the minds of any egalitarians or Christian feminists reading this since most of them reject Biblical inerrancy. But for those Christians who accepted the Biblical teaching of male headship before you came to this post – you now may be asking “Why does it matter that a husband is not only the head of his wife, but that he actually owns her?”

To Husbands

Husband – this truth that God has given you ownership of your wife and children should not cause your pride to rise, but rather it should humble you. The ownership God has given you is to be exercised for his glory – not yours. You should always remember that your wife and children are gifts from God to you.

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing And obtains favor from the Lord.” – Proverbs 18:22(NASB)

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” – Psalm 127:3 (NASB)

As Christian men we are responsible for our children AND our wife’s spiritual and physical well-being. We are also responsible for the behavior of our children AND our wife. Unfortunately many Christian men are negligent in ownership responsibilities over their families. God wants us as men to take ownership for the women and children he has given graciously us.

He wants us to love them by knowing them, honoring them, leading them, teaching them, correcting and disciplining them, protecting them and providing for them.

Let me add one caveat to these responsibilities that we as Christian husbands have for our wife and children.  God holds each of us responsible for he has given us power over.  So if our wife or child descends into spiritual rebellion against after we as husbands and fathers have exercised the authority God has given us to try and help them – then we are no longer responsible for their behavior.  What I am talking about is husbands or fathers who watch their wives or children descend into sinful behavior and tell themselves there is nothing they can do and they bare no responsibility to intervene. According to God’s Word as the Spiritual heads of our homes we do have a responsibility to spiritually intervene in the lives of our wives and children.

To Wives

Wife – this truth that God has given your husband owner over you might at first be scary. It’s scary because we all know that human authority can be abused. But God calls you to have faith in him, and faith in his design. This does not mean your husband will never mistreat you, or sin against you because he is a sinner just like you. Also know that just because God has made you the property of your husband this does not mean as “human property” that you have no rights.  You have certain human rights and additional rights as a wife that your husband must respect – otherwise God will hold him accountable.

God did not give your husband ownership over you to crush or dehumanize you, but to provide for you what he knows you need. Once you understand how God view’s a husband’s ownership over his wife – it should give you comfort that if he owns you the way that God owns us all, you have nothing to fear.

This will then free you to embrace your husband’s ownership over you. It will humble you and help you put aside that sinful pride that can often rise up in your heart. You will be able realize you are not your own – you were bought with a price, and God gave you to your husband.

“For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:20 (NASB)

“For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.” – I Corinthians 11:7(NASB)

Biblical Human Rights vs American Human Rights

What we think of today as “human rights” and how God defined human rights from the beginning of creation are two very different things. “Human Rights” would be defined as those rights every human being has.

There are a lot of different definitions of human rights, some longer and some shorter so I will just offer a brief sample of common human rights that most people in American(and Western) culture believe in.

12 American Human Rights

All persons should have full autonomy (full freedom), regardless of their gender, race, economic standing, national origin, ethnic background or religious beliefs.

Every person has the right to believe as they will, and worship or not worship as we they will.

Every person has the right to do with their own body as they will (this includes any type of voluntary sexual activity inside or outside of marriage).

Every person has the right to work for and obtain property and do as they wish with their own private property.

No person can sell themselves or their children into slavery and no person may own any slaves (human property is forbidden).

Every person has the right not to be physically abused.

Every person has the right to defend themselves harm.

Every person has the right to choose whom they will marry (or divorce). Men and women have equal rights in marriage, and equal rights to their children and all property between them is to be divided equally about the dissolving of the marriage in divorce (absent a prenuptial agreement).

Every person has the right to a free education (at least up to a secondary level).

No person should be deprived of his property, his freedom or his life without due process of the law,

Every person should be treated equally before the law.

No person may be treated differently by the Government based on their religion, their race, their ethnic background or their gender.

There are many other rights that many Americans believe in (on both the right and the left), but once we get past these rights there begins to be much disagreement. For instance when it comes to rights regarding sexual orientation or rights to health care and other social welfare items, there is still much disagreement in the United States. Also there is a lot of disagreement as to the difference between the rights of children and adults with some advocating for more autonomy among children (taking away parental rights over children).

But now let’s compare and contrast these American human rights with the rights given to human beings by the God in the Bible.

8 Biblical Human Rights

Every person has the right to Love the one true God, the God of the Bible. Everyone has a right to worship him and obey him even when this conflicts with the wishes of their human authorities.

“You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” – Luke 4:8 (NASB)

We must obey God rather than men.” – Acts 5:29 (NASB)

Every person has the right to be treated fairly and justly

“Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.” – Colossians 4:1(NASB)

Every person has the right not to be physically abused.

“If a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye. And if he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let him go free on account of his tooth.” – Exodus 21:26-28(NASB)

No person, male or female, may be deprived of their life without due process of the law. Every person should be treated impartially before the law.

“You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.” – Deuteronomy 16:19(NASB)

No person may be kidnapped, which is the illegal acquiring of human property. Only persons who are legally acquired as property may be bought or sold.

“If a man is caught kidnapping any of his countrymen of the sons of Israel, and he deals with him violently or sells him, then that thief shall die; so you shall purge the evil from among you.” – Deuteronomy 24:7(NASB)

“As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you.” – Leviticus 25:44 (NASB)

“If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do.” – Exodus 21:7 (NASB)

Both men and women have an equal right to sex with their spouse within marriage.

“The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” – I Corinthians 7:4 (NASB)

Every person is entitled to a day of rest one day a week

“but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.” – Exodus 20:10(NASB)

Every person has the right to defend themselves and their family

“If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account.” – Exodus 22:2(NASB)

“fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses” – Nehemiah 4:14(NASB)

Some big differences between Biblical and American Human rights

First off all I want to remind the reader that we are discussing “human rights”, meaning rights that all human beings have in common.

There are many more rights that God gives to various groups such as males vs females, husbands vs wives, free vs slave and adults vs children.  

This discussion of “human rights” is really a discussion of “equal rights between all human beings”.

There are some big differences between what we believe as Americans are human rights and what the Bible presents as rights given by God. Listed below are key differences between Biblical human rights and American human rights.

Except for the 8 Biblical human rights listed above, men and women do not have equal rights under Biblical law.

Except for kidnapping (the illegal acquiring of human property), slavery is allowed under Biblical law. But even slaves as human property are entitled to the 8 Biblical Human rights listed above.

There is no right given to worship any other God, except the God of the Bible.

There is no right to sex outside of marriage between a man and woman.

Only free men have the complete right and power over their own property and decisions. A father could override his daughter’s property decisions, and a husband could override his wife’s property decisions under Biblical law.

No person had a right to education whether paid or free under Biblical Law.

Under Biblical law, discrimination between men and women, Israelite and non-Israelite was not only allowed, it was commanded by God. Even under new law of Christ in the New Testament, there are some differences between how believers and non-believers are treated.

But doesn’t God support more human rights (equal rights) in the New Testament?

Some Christians may concede that there were far fewer human rights given in the Old Testament than in the New. But these same Christians (feminists and egalitarians) would point to this passage from the New Testament which they believe supposedly grants more human rights:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28 (NASB)

The truth is that this passage does no eliminate all social classes or gender distinctions between men and women, slave or free, Jew or Greek. It simply affirms an old truth that from the very beginning, all people had a human right to come to the one true God, worship him and obey him regardless of their gender or social status.

If you look into the full context of this passage it is talking about how God would no longer deal with his people through the nation of Israel, but now his people would be represented in a new body, the Church which is the body of Christ. God’s promise of salvation was not restricted to the nation of Israel but rather God saves all people and brings them into his body, regardless of their social status, ethnic origin or gender.

So in the view of some egalitarians, God eliminated all distinction in rights between men and women and he also eliminated slavery or social castes with different rights by this one passage.

But as with any other subject, we cannot take one passage and cancel out all other passages in the Bible. These old allowances and principles were reinstated and in some cases even elaborated on further in the New Testament.

The Principle that that God created woman for man and that he is her head in society, in the Church and in the home is brought forward and reinforced in the New Testament:

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God… Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” – I Corinthians 11:3 & 9(KJV)

“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” – Ephesians 5:23-24(KJV)

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands… 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: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord…” I Peter 3: 1 & 5-6 (KJV)

On the slavery issue – see my post “Why Christians should not be ashamed of Biblical Slavery”.

Conclusion

Our rights do not come from our government, they come from our maker and our God. He gives us some rights that our government does not, and he does not give us all the rights our government does.

Some extra rights that our government gives us are not sinful and therefore as Christians we may enjoy these additional rights that are granted to us in American society. But other rights, such as the right to private sexual acts outside of marriage, the right to engage in homosexual sex or prostitution and the new right to gay marriage are sinful and Christians may not exercise these rights.

Another sinful right that our American society grants is the right to no-fault divorce. God grants no such right. A husband or wife have no right to divorce their spouse expect for if their spouse violates the covenant of marriage by engaging in sexually immoral acts, physical abuse or physical abandonment of the marriage.

We as Christians must never forget that God is the one who created us, and he is the one who defines what it means to be human.  God is the one the grants our grants us our rights, and his commands supersede that our modern cultures and governments.

Why Christians shouldn’t be ashamed of Slavery in the Bible

Many Christians wish this issue would just go away. Atheists and other Non-Christians often bring up the topic of slavery in the Bible as a way to discredit the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Even some who claim to profess faith in Jesus Christ use slavery in the Bible as a way to discredit Biblical commands regarding gender roles. How can we as Christians believe that slavery in America was immoral but at the same time defend slavery in the Bible? Isn’t this a huge a contradiction?

The typical response that most Christians give about slavery in the Bible

“Well God overlooked many sinful activities in ancient society like polygamy and slavery, but these were not his perfect will. Later in the New Testament he told Christians not to practice slavery and polygamy anymore.”

Even though this post is about slavery, I include polygamy in the above statement because usually these two issues are used together to attack the morality of Christianity. I won’t be dealing with Biblical polygamy here but I have written an entire series on it and I will provide a link to it at the end of this post .

The vast majority of Christians, and sadly even many Ministers of the Gospel of Christ simply concede the modern western world’s notion that slavery is ALWAYS immoral. The other concession they make which is even worse is that God tolerated or even regulated an activity (slavery) that he believed was sinful. What these believers are doing is actually accusing God of overlooking sin.

Whenever I hear Christians saying God overlooked the supposed sins of slavery and polygamy this passage of Scripture comes to mind:

“The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.” – Deuteronomy 32:4 (NASB)

The God I worship who gave commands that allowed for the practices of slavery and polygamy is just and righteous in all he commands.

If we say that God’s commands allowing polygamy and slavery were anything less than just and right – then we open the door to say that anything other commands in Scripture can be dismissed “sins God chose to overlook”.

Some Christians who reject any type of inequality – be it social or economic and especially Biblical inequalities between men and women – will say things like this:

“God always hated the sin of inequality in any sphere it appeared in society, but he wanted to reveal his will on these issues slowly and not turn society upside down by trying to explicitly take on on the “sin of inequality” that existed in practices like marriage,polygamy,slavery and capitalism.”

In fact for many Christians who reject Biblical inerrancy, they will claim that Jesus was Socialist and Feminist. I wrote some posts a while back refuting the idea that Jesus was a Feminist.

If we as Bible believing Christians surrender on issues like slavery and polygamy, and concede that they were sins God just “overlooked”, then we are at the same time surrendering the inerrancy of the Scriptures and the justice and righteousness of God in everything he commands.

But I understand that as a believer – you may need a little more than my word on this. So we will look at what the Bible says about slavery and also compare and contrast that with slavery as it was practiced in the United States.

One type of slavery is still constitutional in the United States

Before we get into what the Bible says about slavery I wanted to point to an interesting fact that most Americans are completely unaware of. Believe it or not, the United States still allows slavery.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1865 gives this exception to our prohibition of slavery:

“neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”

When a person is sentenced to life with hard labor for a crime they commit – that is a form of slavery. There are still some prisons that have forced labor, but it is not as widespread as it once was.

I actually believe this remaining form of slavery should be expanded in the United States. Imagine if every car thief, every drug dealer and especially those white collar criminals all knew they were going to have to do hard labor during their sentences instead of just being confined to a cell and given time in a yard with three meals a day?

This could bring down crime rates as well as help with the costs of prisons.

Does the Bible actually allow slavery or is it just silent on the issue?

The Bible not only allows the practice of slavery but it also regulates slavery in the laws that Moses gave to the nation of Israel. There are two primary passages in Mose’s Law that give us God’s regulations for how slavery could be morally practiced.

“If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service.  He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee.  He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers.  For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale.  You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God.  As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you.  Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession.  You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another. – Leviticus 25:39-46 (NASB)

“If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment.  If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him.  If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone.  But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently. “If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do. If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He does not have authority to sell her to a foreign people because of his unfairness to her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters.  If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. If he will not do these three things for her, then she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.” – Exodus 21:2-11 (NASB)

So it’s pretty clear in Moses’ Law that God not only allowed slavery, he regulated it. Slaves from pagan nations were automatically regarded as permanent property, and could actually be left as an inheritance to the children of their Hebrew slave owners.

Male Hebrews (countryman) could not kept as permanent slaves, but had to be treated rather as hired hands and they had to be freed after six years of service. Female Hebrew slaves could be kept indefinitely, but they could not be sold to foreign people. If a man bought a woman and gave her to his son he had treat her with the full rights of a daughter, and his son had to give her the full rights of a wife.

Biblical Rules for proper treatment of human property

“but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.” – Exodus 20:10(NASB)

“If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property… “If a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye. And if he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let him go free on account of his tooth.” – Exodus 21:20 -21 & 26-27 (NASB)

“Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.” – Colossians 4:1 (NASB)

Slaves were to be treated fairly and justly by their masters. They were to be given rest one day a week when the rest of the family rested and they were able to participate in the various festivals. They were not allowed to be physically abused or murdered.

Does the New Testament maintain slavery or get rid of it?

The New Testament maintains slavery as an acceptable practice before God, provided that slaves were treated justly and fairly.

Some Christians have tried to say that the Apostles and especially Paul wanted to abolish slavery because of an issue with a runaway slave. Paul wrote a letter to a Christian slave owner named Philemon.  Paul had mentored a man name Onesimus who became a believer in Christ. He did mission work with Paul and was “useful” to Paul .  But at some point Onesimus revealed that he was a runaway slave and Paul sent him back to Philemon with this exhortation:

I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment,  who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me.  I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart,  whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel;  but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.  For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever,  no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

 If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me.  But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account;” – Philemon 1:10-18(NASB)

Some Christians point to this phrase “that you would have him back forever,  no longer as a slave, but more than a slave” to say Paul was commanding Philemon to free this slave, and by extension was against slavery and wanted him and all other Christian slave masters to free their slaves. But again whenever we look at a topic in Scripture, we have to look at everything written on that topic and not just one passage before we can truly understand God’s position on an issue.

Paul addresses Christian slave owners in these passages:

“All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against. Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.” – I Timothy 6:1-3 (NASB)

“Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.” – Colossians 3:22 – 4:1 (NASB)

“Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ;  not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.  With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men,  knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” – Ephesians 6:5-9(NASB)

If Paul was against Christians owning slaves – he would have clearly said so.  He had every opportunity to tell at least Christian slave owners that they should free their slaves and stop using slavery in their businesses. Instead Paul exhorts Masters to treat their slaves with justice and fairness, and if they are believers to treat them as brothers in Christ even though they are still slaves. Some have said that Paul did not want to impede the Gospel by taking on slavery.  But this idea reduces the Pauline epistles to mere human letters – when in fact they were divinely inspired by God.  Remember what we said previously – every command of God is just and right and Paul was giving us God’s commands regarding slaves and their masters. If God had changed his mind about slavery from the law that he gave Moses, he would have said so through his Apostles, but he did not.

Paul tells slaves if they can be free, then be free but if they cannot they need to accept their condition as slaves:

“Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.” -1 Corinthians 7:21-22(NASB)

The Apostle Peter weighed in on slavery to when he told slaves they needed to submit even to Masters who were cruel.

Household slaves, submit with all fear to your masters, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.” I Peter 2:18 (HCSB)

It is interesting in each of Paul’s exhortations to slaves, he always starts off with the slave needing to respect and obey their masters and then he goes to telling the masters to treat their slaves fairly. He also does the same thing when he speaks to wives and husbands.  He starts off telling wives to submit to their husbands and then ends telling husbands to treat their wives kindly.  The principle Paul was giving us under the inspiration of God was – our respect and obedience to our authorities is not dependent on how they treat us, but rather our obedience is to our authorities is based on our obedience to God.

I believe the New Testament Scriptures are clear – God did not get rid of slavery but simply made sure that Masters treated theirs slaves fairly and that slaves knew they needed to obey their masters.

Based upon the passages cited above, as well as other passages and principles of the Bible the test of whether a particular practice of slavery is moral is answered by the two sets of questions:

The First morality test of Slavery – How did the slave come to be owned by their master?

Did they voluntarily give themselves as a slave in exchange for protection and economic security?

Were they born from slave parents?

Were they sold as a slave by their father?

Did they voluntarily sell themselves to pay off debtors?

Were they forced into servitude by governing authorities either because of debts they owed or because of a crime they committed?

Were they captured as a prisoner of a just war?

Were they kidnapped and forced to be a slave?

Biblically speaking, if a person were to answer yes to any of the first six questions, then the way that they became a slave was not wrong. If however the person was kidnapped and forced into slavery, then this type of slavery would be immoral and wrong.

The Second morality test of Slavery – How is the slave being treated by their master?

Are food, clothing and shelter being provided to the slave?

Is the slave being treated justly and fairly?

Is the slave being given proper rest?

Is the slave not being physically abused?

If the answer to all these questions is yes regarding the treatment of slaves in a particular situation then this instance of slavery would be moral – Biblically speaking.

Comparing American Slavery to Biblical Slavery

As Americans we see the practice of slavery through the eyes of African Americans and how their ancestors were treated here in America. But we need to understand that the practice of slavery here in America was nothing like the slavery that God allowed and regulated in the Bible.

Before the modern era, people often had to choose between personal liberty and economic security in most cultures around the world.

For instance in Biblical times it was not uncommon for a father to have to sell one or more his children as slaves to a wealthier family. This served two purposes – it would ensure that his children would be feed and cared for and often times it would help to pull his own family out of poverty because of the money he would receive in return.

Other times young men who had lost their entire families and lived in poverty on the street might sell themselves to wealthy man in order to have food, clothing and protection guaranteed.

Another thing is the image we have of slaves. We have in our mind men, women and children in chains and rags working their hands to the bone each day. The truth is that in many instances in ancient Israel you might have had trouble distinguishing who in the household was a slave and who were family members.

On the other hand, the slavery in practice in America was completely different than the slavery that was allowed by the Bible. Chains were a very a common occurrence with slavery in America. It was based on the false ideology that one race was less human than others and they could be enslaved if for no other reason than their race.

The Bible dispels such a notion about slaves being less human than their masters:

“If I have despised the claim of my male or female slaves When they filed a complaint against me, What then could I do when God arises? And when He calls me to account, what will I answer Him?

“Did not He who made me in the womb make him, And the same one fashion us in the womb? – Job 31:13-15(NASB)

Job was clear that God made his slaves in their mother’s wombs just as he was made in his mother’s womb.

No person is less human than another, and no one deserves to be enslaved simply because of their race.

Besides American slavery being based on race – it massively failed the two tests of Biblical Slavery that I mentioned above. Africans were kidnapped from their homes. They were treated worse than animals and loaded on to ships without proper food, clothing and shelter. Many Africans died while on Ships coming to America. Many African women were raped by their owners, instead being given the full status of wives. They were often physically abused and even sometimes murdered. But because they were not considered fully human, no punishments were given.

Even in some American homes where slaves were treated more humanely – the origin of how they were brought here was tainted. Their parents did not nothing deserving to be enslaved, they were the product of kidnapping.

So here is the summary in regard to American slavery. The simple fact of one man enslaving another is not in and of itself an immoral act. The act of enslaving a person is not synonymous with treating that person as less than human if the enslavement occurs under just conditions as we noted earlier.

For instance prisoners being made into slave labors is not unjust and it is not treating them as a less than human by essentially turning them into a slave workforce.

But what the Bible did not allow in regard to slavery was simply kidnapping people and enslaving them based on their race. This was a violation of Biblical human rights and this was the first reason American slavery was evil and wrong.

The second reason American slavery was wrong was the treatment of blacks after they were enslaved. They were not just enslaved wrongly but in many cases they were treated more harshly than their owners treated their horses or their livestock.  This is why American slavery was evil and nothing like the slavery God allowed in the civil laws of Israel.

Was America wrong for outlawing slavery?

The Bible does not command that anyone must have slaves. It only allows slavery under certain conditions and then it stipulates what is considered fair and humane treatment for slaves.

I believe abolitionists were right in convincing Americans to end slavery (except for criminals as I mentioned previously) but as I have shown here in this post – I don’t believe all instances of slavery are immoral. However the slavery that was practiced here in America – both in how the slaves were acquired, and how they were treated as less than human was in fact immoral.

How should Christians respond to attacks on the Bible over the issue of slavery?

First know where the attacks on Biblical slavery will come.

Attack #1 against Slavery

“All instances of slavery abuses people and treats people as less than human, therefore slavery is immoral.”

Wrong – American slavery, and slavery practiced outside of Israel may have treated slaves as less than human and it was therefore immoral. But in Israel slaves were guaranteed certain human rights that God commanded.

Attack #2 against Slavery

“Even if Israel treated their slaves more kindly they still were treated as less than human because they did not have equal rights and were not free. All adult humans must have equal rights including full autonomy.”

Wrong – God is the one who grants our rights and while he has guaranteed certain human rights to all – he did not guarantee an equal amount of rights to all. It is not immoral, or treating someone as less than human to give some people more rights than others if we are following God’s Law in doing so.

I promised at the beginning of this post to give you the link to my series on Biblical Polygamy as this and slavery are often used together to attack Biblical morality.

Here is the series “Why Polygamy is not unBiblical part 1”