Gather round, kiddies, gather round! It’s time for Today’s Bible Lesson!
Today’s Bible Lesson: Slavery is cool! How do I know? Sing it with me: The Bible Tells Me So.
Slavery sanctioned by the Bible? Oh, I’ll get to that. But a bit of background first.
The “Ten Commandments,” never specifically enumerated and labeled specifically as the “Ten Commandments” in the Bible, have been historically identified in various ways throughout history by different groups of Jews and Christians. The Catholics, for instance, cut out the bit about God telling us to not make any graven images. If you’ve ever been inside a Catholic Church and checked out the statues, you know that little editing job turned out handily for them. The whole notion that there’s a distinct place in the Bible where the Ten Commandments are spelled out is just plain hooey.
A lot of people point out Exodus Chapter 20 as one possible place to look for Ten Commandments. They like to stop right at the end of Exodus Chapter 20 because, well, hey, it’s the end of the Chapter, right? The problem is, the original Hebrew Bible didn’t have chapters or verses in it. The chapters and verses of the Bible weren’t introduced until the 13th Century (and no, not by Jesus). Because the chapters were introduced to fit the relatively modern conceptions of the Bible (like the problem of finding a specific reference to Ten Commandments), chapter divisions can’t tell us where the commandment list ends.
This is important because it’s not like God starts commandmenting in the beginning of Exodus Chapter 20 and stops commandmenting at the end of Exodus Chapter 20. No, God is a profligate commandmenter, just keeping right on with His commandments right at the beginning of Exodus Chapter 21 with the words “Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them.” That’s a pretty commandmenty phrase if I’ve ever read one. And what’s the very first commandment (the eleventh commandment, we might say) God sets down in his Exodus Chapter 21? Why, a rule on how to morally keep slaves.
Here’s the Eleventh Commandment set out by God on slave-keeping:
1. If you keep a male slave, you have to set him free after six years.
2. If he was married when he came into servitude, then he can take his wife with him.
3. But if he gets married during his six years of slavery, you get to keep the wife in slavery (and the kids, if there are any — bonus!). If the slave protests this and wants to stay married with his wife and all, why then, as master you get to ram an awl through his ear and keep him, the wife, and the kids in slavery for ever!
How cool is that?
Slavery is an awesome thing. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger or anything; it’s not like I made the rule up. The Bible Tells Me So!