Okay, with all of my treatment on rape, women’s rights etc., I thought I should touch a little on the slavery issue, because it is connected to the discussion (with all those concubines and stuff).

First, let’s consider that the Torah was written by and for the Israelites.  So, if the Romans or Assyrians or anybody else practiced a different type of slavery, we can’t blame that on God.  Secondly, saying that God condoned slavery doesn’t capture the whole picture either.

Slavery brings up connotations of race, abuse and the exploitation of a whole people.  But Biblical slavery as it applied to Israel was different.  First, one often sold himself into slavery as a last resort.  That’s right, people would sell themselves into slavery.  Slavery was what happened when a person got into such debt that he could no longer pay it off, so often after selling all of his property, a person would sell himself.

But that was not the end of it.

God instituted the Year of Jubilee for cancelling debts.  Every seventh year all debts were cancelled, and slaves were to be released from service. (There were a few exceptions).  So, it didn’t matter if you went into slavery the year before Jubilee or the year after, once the Year of Jubilee came around, all debts were cancelled, and slaves released.


Some will note that concubines were never to be released as regular slaves.  This is because Biblically, once a man has sexual relations with a woman, he has entered into a covenant with her and cannot simply “throw her away”.  Now, why would anyone sell his daughter as a concubine?  For the most part it was a way to give the daughter a better life.  If a girl’s family lived in a place where “marrying” at her own socio-economic level mean that she would have stayed in poverty, it might give her a better life to let her live as a concubine to someone more well off.

What about all those slaves taken from othe countries?

War was a fact of life in the ANE as it is now.  In some cases, it became necessary to totally destroy an enemy.  I know it sounds crass, but if women and children were left behind to fend for themselves, the society might collapse, or at least they would die off with no men to help with procreation.  Yes, some women became concubines.  Although many of the virgins were too young to marry, some were adopted into Israelite families and some would later enjoy the status of Israelites themselves.