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Now the transfer of the degrading and infamous chattelism signified in the Latin word verna and the English word slave to such a relationship, and to the phrase son of the house, or born of the house, as its true meaning among the Hebrews, is one of the most unauthorized and outrageous perversions ever inflicted upon human language. It is almost blasphemous, as designed to fix the blot and infamy of slavery upon what was and is the noblest, most benevolent, most carefullyguarded, freest, and most affectionate system of domestic service in the world.
It is a system of such freedom and benevolence, and so ingeniously designed and adapted to conquer every surrounding and prevailing form of slavery, and subdue it to itself, that its infinite superiority to the selfish law and oppressed condition of the world, and its enthronement of benevolence instead of power as the ruling impulse and object (in that part of social legislation especially, where the law and custom of mankind have made selfishness not only supreme, but just, expedient, and even necessary), are something supernatural. The contrast and opposition of this system over against the creed and habit of power, luxury, oppressive selfishness, and slavery, so long prevalent without question of its right, is, by itself, an impregnable proof of the Divine inspiration of the Pentateuch. It is a proof, the shining and the glory of which have been clouded and darkened by the anachronisms, prejudices, and misinterpretations of Biblical archæologists and translators, but which is destined to be yet cleared and acknowledged by the Christian world with gratitude to God. We shall at length cease to look to Arab or Egyptian Sheikhs and Pashas for illustrations of the life of Abraham, and to Roman or American slaves for pictures of the Hebrew households.
The Year-Sabbath and the Annual Feasts.
But besides the weekly Sabbath of devotion, every seven years the land should keep a Sabbath of a whole year unto the Lord, the seventh year, a Sabbath of rest for the land,
and, in consequence, for all classes of servants: “ And the Sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee" (Lev. 25: 27). Here the , the servant of all work, the nex, the maidservant, and the main, the hired servant, are all specified ; the seventh year belongs to them as well as to their masters. In Ex. 23: 11, 12, these two institutions of the year-sabbath and the seventh-day Sabbath are coupled, and the purpose specified is that of rest and refreshment "for the son of thine handmaid and the stranger," M. Here are already two-sevenths of the time of life guarantied to the servants for rest and sacred discipline. The injunction of a circumspect piety is added to the enactment of both these ordinances.
Then, in the same chapter, the three great annual feasts follow, enacted in order, Ex. 23: 14–17, these enactments being drawn out with minute detail and precision in Deut. 16: 2—16, and they are designated as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. In Ex. 34: 21-23, the weekly Sabbath and these three annual festivals are coupled in the same manner as the Sabbath and the Seventh year of rest in Ex. xxiii. The spirit of these festivals and their duration are described in Deut. xvi. and Lev. 23:34–43. And the equalizing benevolence of these institutions is the more marked by the repetition of the rule : “ Thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, before the Lord thy God; thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow that are among you” (Deut. 16: 11). Taking into consideration the time necessary for going and returning to and from each of these great Festivals, together with their duration, we have in their observance some six weeks, or nearly another seventh of the whole time devoted, for the servants as well as the masters, to religious joy, and rest, and refreshment.
Then, in addition, are to be reckoned the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23: 24), the Day of Atonement (23: 27—34 and
16: 29), the Feast of the New Moon (Num. 28: 11. Hos. 2: 11; Ezek. 46:1, 3). If to these we add the Feasts of Purim and the Dedication, and the oft-recurring joyous family festivals (1 Sam. 20: 6. Gen. 21: 8), we have more than threesevenths, or nearly one half the time of the servants give to them for their own disposal and enjoyment, instruction and piety, unvexed by servile labors, on a footing of almost absolute equality and affectionate familiarity and kindness with the whole household : father, mother, son, daughter, manservant and maid-servant, all having the same religious rights and privileges —“ They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appearing before God.” How beauti. ful, how elevating, how joyous was such a national religion, and how adapted to produce and renew continually that spirit of humility and love, in the exercise of which the whole law was concentrated and fulfilled.
Time and Treatment of the Hebrew Servant.— The Six Years'
Contract. The section in Ex. 21: 2—11, prescribing time and treatment for the Hebrew servant, is full of instruction : "If thou buy a Hebrew servant (979379977), six years he shall serve, 705; and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing" (Dannen xxa); his term of service expires, and he is free without cost. He had himself sold his own time and labor to his master, by contract, for six years — no longer; and this was called buying a Hebrew servant. Such a servant was not the master's property, nor is ever called such, although he might have been described as “his money;” that is, he had paid in money for his services, for so long a time, and, in that sense, he was his money, but in no other. We have already noted the usage of the word nie, to buy; and its application in describing the purchase of persons in such relations as forbid the idea of property or slavery. This is one of those instances. The Hebrew servant was bought with money, yet he was in no sense a slave, or the property of his master. In entering into a six years' contract of service, h
was said to have sold himself; yet he was not a slave. He might extend this contract to the longest period ever allowed by law, that is, to the Jubilee; yet still he was not property, he was not a slave; his service was the fulfilment of a voluntáry contract, for which a stipulated equivalent was required, and given to himself. The reason for the adoption or appointment of six years for the ordinary legal contract of Hebrew servitude, may very likely be found in the example of Jacob's service of six years with Laban for his cattle.
This section is to be compared with Deut. 15: 12–18. Here, it is : If thy brother be sold, that is, if he have hired himself to thee, and serve thee six years; or if a Hebrew woman do the same; then, when this period of service is ended, not only is he free, as above, but “thou shalt not let him go away empty. Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock and out of thy floor, and out of thy wine-press.” This extraordinary provision of an outfit was some offset, and was intended to be such, for the comparatively low wages of a six years' , or servant, as compared with the wages of a hired servant, by the year or by the day. It was a great inducement to continue the engagement to the end of the contract, and not be seeking another master. And at the same time it is enjoined as a reason why the master should be liberal in this outfit, that he has gained so much more from the labor of the servant for six years, than he could have done if he had contracted with him as a 72 or hired servant. The computation is made as follows: He hath been worth a double hired servant, in serving thee six years ; 7222, double the wages of a hireling serving thee; that is, if thou hadst hired a servant by the year, and kept him six years, he would have cost thee twice as much as a servant whom thou buyest, or contractest with, for six years at a time.
Supposing that for a six years' term a man could be engaged for eighteen shekels; then a yearly hired servant could not be got for less than six shekels the year; it would therefore, in most cases, be more desirable to engage a six years' 777, than to hire by the year; and, notwithstanding the difference in price, it might, in many cases, be more desirable
for the servant also. Micah, in the case recorded in Judges xvii., hired a young Levite from Bethlehem Judah, to dwell with him as his priest, for wages; and he gave him ten shekels of silver, and a suit of apparel, and his victuals, by
There are no such examples of specific contracts with ordinary servants recorded; but the price of Joseph's sale to the merchant-men of the Midianites, was twenty shekels of silver. The sum to be paid when a man-servant or maid-servant was gored to death by an ox, was thirty shekels of silver to the master (Ex. 21: 32), the price, perhaps, of a six years' contract. The price of the prophet, in Zech. 11:12, or the hire, or wages (50 is the word used), at which he and his services were valued, and paid, was thirty shekels of silver. The redemption-price for a man who had vowed himself to the Lord, was fifty shekels of silver from twenty years of age till sixty; and for a woman, thirty shekels; from five years to twenty, twenty shekels for a man, ten for a woman; from a month to five years old, five shekels for the man-child, three for the girl. And it is added: from sixty years old and above, fifteen for the man, ten for the woman. This was the priest's estimation of the persons for the Lord (Lev. 27:2—7). Now this seems an estimate adopted from the value of labor or service at these different periods, the value of a man's time and labor.
Now the wages of a man as a servant, are often the subject of consideration in the scriptures, but the price of a man
There is no such idea recognized as the price of a servant considered as property, or as if he were a thing of barter and sale; his owner is never spoken of; there is no such thing as the owner of a man, and no such quality is ever recognized as that of such ownership. When the recompense is appointed for the master whose servant has been killed by another's ox, it is the master, not the owner, to whom the recompense is to be made, as master, not as owner. There was no servant without wages, either paid beforehand, for a term of years, or paid daily, if hired by the day, or annually, as the case might be. The three kinds of contract or service, and of corresponding wages, are spe