OLD TESTAMENT – Slavery laws appear in Exod 21:1-11; Lev 25:39-55; and Deut 15:12-18. Most of these concern humane treatment and manumission. A Hebrew sold to another Hebrew or a resident alien because of insolvency was to be released after six years of service and given provisions to start over. If he had come with a wife, she and any children were also released. If the master had given him a wife, she and the children were to remain. If, however, the slave wanted to stay with his wife and children rather than be free, he could enroll himself as a slave for life. A Hebrew who sold himself to another Hebrew or resident alien was to be released during the Jubilee Year. A slave could be redeemed at any time by a relative. A Hebrew girl sold by her father to another Hebrew to become his wife was to be released if that man or his son did not marry her.

A slave permanently maimed by his or her master was to be freed (Exod 21:26-27). A fugitive slave-presumably one who had escaped from a foreign owner-was not to be extradited (Deut 23:15-16). Foreigners could be enslaved permanently, but they had the right to circumcision (Exod 12:44-48), Sabbath rest (Exod 20:10), and holidays (Deut 16:11,14). One was to be punished for beating a slave to death (Exod 21:20-21).

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