Report on Slavery and Racism in the History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Theology Thursday - Slavery and the Bible - Part 2 (ca. 1850)

Today, we conclude this article from the September 1850 issue of DeBow’s Review. ​The anonymous author presents a “Scriptural defense” of slavery from the Bible.1

After the Israelites had been a long time in Egypt, they became servants to the Egyptians. At this time, God sent Moses, as a messenger, to bring them out of Egypt. Through Moses, God gave them laws by which they were to be governed. No law which came directly from him (the fountain of morality), can be considered morally wrong; it might be imperfect, in not providing for circumstances not then existing—but, so far as it does provide, the provisions are correct. Nothing which God ordained can be a crime, and nothing for which he gave express permission can be considered wrong.

In Leviticus xxv, we are told, that the Lord spake to Moses, saying:

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them—after various provisions of the law, the 39th verse reads as follows, in regard to servitude: If thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee, then shalt not compel him to serve as a bond-servant, but as an hired servant, &c.

—clearly showing that there was a distinction between bond-servant and hired-servant. After providing for the case of a Hebrew servant, verses 44, 45, and 46, of the same law, read as follows:

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Theology Thursday - Slavery and the Bible (ca. 1850)

The following essay appeared in the September 1850 issue of DeBow’s Review,​ which was one of the most important antebellum journals in the South. It appeared just as Congress was debating and passing what became known as “the Compromise of 1850.” The author is anonymous, but the piece sums up, in a remarkably straightforward way, the “Biblical argument” for slavery from a pro-Southern perspective. SharperIron does not endorse the conclusions or presuppositions of this article. However, the article stands as a historical marker; an important reminder that, if a man is desperate enough, he can “find” a way to “biblically” support his position on just about anything.1

A very large party in the United states believe that holding slaves is morally wrong; this party founds its belief upon precepts taught in the Bible, and takes that book as the standard of morality and religion. We, also, look to the same book as our guide in the same matters; yet, we think it right to hold slaves—do hold them, and have held and used them from childhood.

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