The slaves, or servants of that day were not the type of slaves that we think of today. They were more like indentured servants, people who owed money or couldn’t care for themselves So they were more like employees. The culture was different than it is today. That is one way poor people were able to feed themselves. Would you say that Employers of today should not employ people? If there were not businesses that employed people how would people support themselves or their family? Should God say now that we cannot employ others? God doesn’t say ‘Don’t employ people’, He would say ‘Don’t mistreat your employees’. People now and the Hebrews then, can and do treat their employees badly. But, if you are a Christian, you have a standard set by God to treat people as you would want to be treated. Let’s look at people who do forcibly enslave people today. Mostly they are not people who are committed Christians. It is estimated that there are today over 27 million people in the world who are subject to slavery: forced labor, sex trade, inheritable property, etc. As those who have been redeemed from the slavery of sin, followers of Jesus Christ should be and are the foremost champions of ending human slavery in the world today.
The slavery most people think of today is based on skin color and enslaving a person forever. That is not supported by God. We are all created in His image and are of one race, the human race, not separated by color of skin. How this form of slavery was made popular was by the evolutionary thought. It was believed that black people were less evolved. Evolution supports that we were evolved through monkeys and therefore are at different levels of evolution. God does not think any less of black, brown, yellow or white people. He loves us all and would have it that none should perish. Committed Christians do not support racism.
God does not condone slavery that kidnaps a person and keeps them hostage to work forever and treats them with cruelty. Exodus 21:16 clearly confirms this: “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death”. The Egyptians did that regularly. In Exodus 21, God was addressing sins that were already being committed by the Hebrews such as mistreating servants/employees. In verse 26, God is saying that the servant/employee should be free from their obligation because of injury done to them by the employer. Verse 1 says ‘Now these are the judgments which you are to set before them’. He was telling them how to judge the offenses. He knew they were not living in the way that He wanted them to. God tells us how to live and then gives us the choice to live righteously or going against the way that He wants us to live. Choice, or free will is something that can have negative ramifications. That is why there is evil in the world - people choose to do evil. Several times in the Bible God tries to set good standards for treating their servants because it was going on. People, and as God addressed the Hebrews, can be very stubborn wanting to do things the way that they want to. In other words, ‘I want to live how I want to live’.
When God gave the 10 commandments, He basically was saying, Love God and Love others. Jesus said this in Matthew 22:36-40. If you live in the way that God desires you to live, if you love God and love others, you will not treat others badly. That is our goal as Christians, to live in this way. We are not perfect and not able to do this perfectly. The 10 commandments are what God commands us to do, what He expects of us. When sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s sin, humanity lost its right or ability to walk with God for eternity. Jesus redeemed us so that we can. We are not able to do the commands perfectly. Since we cannot perfectly follow what He requires of us, we have Christ who represents us and fulfills the requirements of ‘perfect living’ through His perfect living, if we believe. If we accept the truth that He died for us and surrender our will to Him, we are accepted by God and will spend eternity with Him. The purpose of the Bible is to point people to salvation from the consequence of their sins. And there are consequences for evil behaviors such as the slavery that most people think of.