I am in high school and we are doing a report on why slavery is or is not okay. A lot of my peers have been saying that the bible says there is nothing wrong with slavery. Is this really true?
closed as primarily opinion-based by Sklivvz♦ Sep 14 '17 at 7:47
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I don't know if there is a verse in the Bible which states that slavery is good - or bad, for that matter.
However, there are many verses that treat slavery as a normal, and explain how slaves should be treated. It should be kept in mind that slaves were treated in different ways by different societies and at different times. For example, in may societies, including Greek, Roman and Jewish, slaves could be freed, and often were. Before the emergence of democracy, most civilisations permitted the use of slavery in some form or other, so the Bible is not exceptional, it just reflects the way people behaved in those days.
There are many other biblical practices that we would not condone any more, for example the stoning of adulteresses. Other practices, such as the death penalty, still occur but are gradually disappearing. It just shows that the Bible reflects the morality of the Israelites at the time.
This site has a list of verses that detail the rules applicable to the treatment of slaves.
Other verses, like Exodus 21:16 make it clear that Israelites must not be sold into slavery.
Wikipedia also has a good article about slavery and the Bible.
TLDR: The Christian Bible never says slavery is good but it doesn't explicitly forbid it. The commandments concerning slavery define minimum working conditions for slaves which makes them very close to what we would call employees, at least for Hebrew males.
Biblical slavery is very different from slavery as it was known in the 19th century.
For example: Biblically, male Hebrew slaves can only be held for 6 years:
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. - Exodus 21:2
Biblically, Hebrew slaves can't be taken by force:
He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death. Exodus 21:16
They can't be injured and if they are, they must be released:
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
Slaves can't be killed:
If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. Exodus 21:20
In fact, the Bible commands that slaves can't be treated worse than a hired worker:
They are to be treated as workers hired from year to year; you must see to it that those to whom they owe service do not rule over them ruthlessly. Leviticus 25:53
Also the conditions for holding slaves was very different, Biblically, it was not unheard of for a slave to voluntarily stay a slave after being freed.
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. - Exodus 21:5,6
You can sell yourself into slavery to pay off your debt and you can make money while a slave:
If a foreigner residing among you becomes rich and any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to the foreigner or to a member of the foreigner’s clan... if they prosper, they may redeem themselves. Leviticus 25:47,49
Biblically, you or your family can buy your freedom:
An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in their clan may redeem them. Or ... they may redeem themselves. Leviticus 25:49
The first Biblical example of what could be called slavery was voluntary:
Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Genesis 29
Biblical slavery, at least for Hebrew males, is much closer to what we would call employment. It's voluntary, temporary, you have certain protections, you get treated like an employee, you can be paid or make money and you get some sort of payment usually of debts.