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in the majority of cases, captives of war, to whom life was granted on
condition of servitude. From this point of view slaveiy may justly be
regarded like many another Old Testament and Semitic custom, which
shocks our modern sensibilities, as a necessary and wholesome advance in
the progress of our race (cf. Lecky, Hist, of European Morals, New York,
1879, vol. i, p. 102). At the same time we must beware of attributing
the institution to a universal sentiment of humanity, since the inclination
to set other people to do our work is at least as " innate" or primary as
the feeling of compassion. It is interesting to note how Augustine {Civ.
Dei, xix. 15) and the code of Justinian (Just. i. 3, 3) explain the word
servris. In the language of the latter the term arose "quod imperatores
servos vendere, ac per hoc servare, nee occidere solent." The etymology
is more than doubtful, but its currency is evidence of the prevalence of
the notion it conveys. The like word SoOXos is pdfcsibly to be connected
with a root meaning to fasten or bind. The Hebrew and general Semitic
'abd is of still less certain derivation.

2 Oddly enough, this statute seems to be commonly understood as pro-
viding simply that "fugitive slaves from foreign countries are not to be
given up" (Wm. Smith's Old Test. History, New York, 1873, p. 277; Ewald,
Antiquities of Israel, Engl, tr., p. 217). That there was abundant occa-
sion for action generally is clear from the observation of Nabal (1 Sam.
XXV. 10). That the law did not exist from the beginning of the settlement,
except as implied in the general Mosaic teaching, is very probable, since
in the long tuxrbulent stage of transition to fixed agricultural manners, it
would have tended only to increase disorder. That it was not observed


batical and the jubilee year had their chief significance in
the emancipation of Israehtish shaves.^ To be sure, the
distinction was sharply drawn here, as in other enact-
ments, between slaves of Hebrew origin and those of for-
eign birth. But this was inevitable in a state whose very
existence depended on its social and racial exclusiveness.
And it was a Hebrew writer of universalistic spirit, who
makes his hero, non-Israelite though he is, speak so hu-
manly of the rights of the slave : " If I were to disdain the
right of my bondmen or of my bondmaid, when their cause
comes before me, then Avhat should I do Avhen God rises up ?
And when he calls to account, what should I answer him ?
Did not he who made me in the womb make him? Yea,
one framed us both in the womb"^ (Job xxxi. 13 ff.).

§ 544. It may be safely maintained that the Hebrew
slavery Avas on the whole a great blessing to the land
and the people. Like other Semitic institutions it was
taken up by the religion of Jehovah, mitigated, regulated,
and made to minister to the well-being- of masters and
slaves, and of the state at large. Apart from its indus-
trial advantages, the principal benefits which under this
saving regime were conferred by it upon society may, I
apprehend, be summed up under three heads. In the first
place, it was an indispensable means of assimilating the
heterogeneous peoples of tlie country, and of thus building
up the commoiiwealth of Israel. Only in this way, as we
have seen (§ 540, cf. 507), could the vast numbers of sur-
viving Canaanites be gradually, insensibly, and completely

at the accession of Solomon we may perhaps indirectly infer from the
incident recorded in 1 K. ii. 39 f .

1 We know that this was disregarded, at least as a rule, in the later
days of the Judaic monai'chy. Yet Jeremiah, who inveighs against Zede-
kiah and his princes for having sent back int© bondage their Hebrew
slaves whom they had released under the influence of a temporary panic,
insists upon it that the rule was of very early origin (Jer. xxxiv. 8 ff.).

2 The ameliorations of the lot of the Hebrew slaves are well summa-
rized by Wallon, Histoire de Vesclavage dans Vantiquite, 2 ed. (1879),
vol. i, p. 11 ff.


absorbed in the controlling element of the population. The
process is not difficult to conceive. We remember that
the type of servitude was fixed forever by the inalienable
traditions of the old patriarchal system. It was a slavery
of the house, not of the soil. Home privileges and asso-
ciations were the boon of the slave, " bought with money,"
as well as of the "house-born." Not simply concubinage
with the house-master, but marriage with him or his son,
was a possibility to the female bond-servants. Necessary ^
participation by the bond and free in the same religious
rites brought to the same general mental and spiritual level
classes of people already pretty well equalized by similarity
of occupation and of physical habit. The very divergence
and disparity of servile conditions promoted the upward
social movement. The interval from the lowest to the
highest lot of Hebrew slaves marked an ascent unspeak-
ably greater than the single bound by which the emanci-
pated servant passed into the ranks of freemen. The
system was so elastic and the transformations of con-
dition so numerous and rapid that while we recognize
the servile class as a weighty social element, we observe
that politically a "slave question "was unknown in the
history of Israel.

§ 545. A further benefit, entailed by the Hebrew institu-
tion, was the protection it afforded to the distressed and op-
pressed at home and abroad. That an Israelite should be
compelled by adverse circumstances to sell himself and his
children into slavery was no doubt often a cruel fate. But
in the average case such a fortune was better than either
starvation or vagrancy, even without the advantages se-
cured by legislative enactments. For the fugitives from
over the borders of Israel, the hunted survivors of the
blood-feud, the night attack, and the woes of extermi-
nation, the Hebrew system furnished a genial and hospit-
able asylum. And a single generation might transform

1 If for no other reason, because otherwise unavoidable close personal
contact with the slaves would have rendered the house-people unclean.


the cringing suppliant into a respected confidant and a
father of freemen.

§ 546. But the greatest blessing which the Jewish sys-
tem of servitude brought with it was the development in
Israel of the philanthropic temper, the spirit of compas-
sion, the sense of a wide human brotherhood. As we
have seen, the Hebrew legislation was unique among all
pre-Christian codes for its protection of the enslaved and
the oppressed. So the literature abounds above all other
ancient literatures in expressions of sympathy for bond-
men and captives and the victims of cruelty. We are
in the habit of accounting for such phenomena by saying
that they were the outcome of the revealed religion, the
religion of Jehovah. And this is true: "Jehovah looseth
the prisoners" (Ps. cxlvi. 7). If we go further, we ex-
plain them as being due to the constant teaching of the
Prophets. This also is true. And it is to be admitted
that most of the touching references to the victims of
oppression are not found in . the literature of the times
now under review, but in the comparatively late prophetic
writings of the period of the Exile. Yet the chivalric and
philanthropic spirit breathes through the discourses of
Amos as strongly and purely as in those of the Second
Isaiah. And we must discard the idea that the Prophets
stood alone in Israel, and were the only effective force in
the community in defence of righteousness and humanity.
In the kingdom of Judah, at any rate, the}^ spoke for a
saving remnant which, though small (Isa. i. 9), was yet
strong enough to survive the shock of national doom.
No writer or thinker has ever quickened the heart of
humanity by the propagation of sentiments cherished by
himself alone. The " Prophet " is one who not only
speaks for God, but for his fellows. The true Israel
spoke in defence of the suffering and the down-trodden
just as truly in the Law as it did in the Prophets.

§ 547. Why is it that alone among the Semitic peoples,
ancient or modern, Israel has left no recorded traces of a


traffic in the bodies of men, except in its prohibition (Ex.
xxi. 16 ; Dent. xxiv. 7) ? And yet this was the only-
branch of commerce which it could profitably undertake.
It was a refuge for fugitives from all the surrounding
tribes. Its position gave it command of countless high-
ways for pilgrims, travellers, merchants, emigrants, and
exiles. The rich could be taken for their ransom, the
poor because they had no helper. Close upon their bor-
der, too, was the city of Tyre, the greatest resort of slave-
traders known to the ancient East (§ 45). Why, again,
is it that while we read of a great and successful uprising
in Tyre of the slaves against their masters,^ in Jerusalem
such a thing is unheard of and unthinkable ? The reason
is not far to seek. Israel in this, as in all else, reaped
what it had sown. It practised what it had learned. It
was taught, divinely taught, the law of human kindness
by its very contact with the needy and the oppressed. It
learned, we may add, by its own experience of trial and
bondage. If it was solitary among the nations in its
moral and religious training, it was equally singular in
its antecedent and subsequent fortune. Its cradle was
the bondage of Egypt, and the recollections of its infancy
were never allowed to die. " Remember that thou wast a
slave in the land of Egypt" (Deut. v. 15; xvi. 12 ; xxiv.
18, 22), was a note that thrilled deep in the heart of Israel
and lingered long. Its repeated strain mingled, too, with
the trumpet warnings of a more bitter fate. Israel's child-
hood had been bruised by servitude in Egypt ; its youth
was being buffeted by the intermittent assaults of a multi-
tude of smaller foes ; its manhood was to be crushed by
captivity in Babylon. Thus Israel stood in Canaan : not
utterly brutalized by conquest; not wholly hardened by
greed and rapine ; its better self awakened by the remem-
brance of its own sorrows as a people, and it may be of
its own sins as well. Nowhere else have been illus-
trated so memorably those lovely lines which the most

1 Wallon, Hist, de Vesclavac/e, I, 57.


sympathetic of Roman poets puts into the mouth of an
exiled Canaanite.^

Me quoque per multos siiuilis fortuna labores
Jactatam hac demum voluit consistere terra ;
Non ignara mali miseris succurrere disco.

§ 548. We may go so far as to maintain that the very
existence of Israel was made possible by its exceptional
tolerance and protection of the slave and the stranger. It
has just been stated (§ 54-4) that the genial social system
of the Hebrews in Canaan was a chief means of conciliating
and assimilating members of outlying communities. We
have now to look for a moment at a class of people living
in the midst of Israel who were not of Israel, not even as
much so as the slaves of the household. It was the policy
and sentiment of the Hebrews towards these "strangers"
which perhaps more than anything else contributed to the
growth of the nation. The ger (n:) was one of a class
peculiarly Semitic.^ He was properly a man belonging to
no tribe, or rather one cut off from his tribe by accident
or cruel fate. As a "sojourner," whether immigrant or
fugitive, within the bounds of a hitherto alien community,
he could become its "guest," receive its protection, and
engage in the ordinary avocations of life, but without the
political rights enjoyed by all the freemen of the tribe.
He thus ceased to be an outlaw, " a wanderer and a fugi-
tive," the fate most dreaded in tribal society.

§ 549. We may distinguish four stages or degrees.
The most remote was naturally the "foreigner" (nr? fs),
one with whom, whether he lived outside of the holy land,
or happened to be within its limits, no intercourse was
held. Such a one at best could claim no rights, not even
of shelter or protection, until he came within the second
degree. Then he became a ger^ strictly speaking ; that is

1 Vergil, ^neid, I, 628 ff.

2 The best accounts of the (jTriin known to the writer are to be found
in W. R. Smith, RS. p. 70 ff., and Xowack, HA. I, 336 ff.


to say, he was made a "guest" of some Israelite. This
was usually done by partaking of the hospitality which
was offered to all, according to the immemorial code of
Semitic manners, as soon as the refugee came under the
canopy of the tent. Eating in common, or the sacred oath,
made the implicit covenant more sacred and inviolable.
But even these solemnities, frequently and gladly as they
were enjoyed by the stranger, were not indispensable.
The tent, or the family within the tent, was the symbol
and surrogate of the whole community, and so mere contact
with the tent-rope assured the suppliant of the temjDorary
protection not only of his immediate patron, but of the
whole clan as well, whose honour was involved in up-
holding the obligation. This privilege, however, was un-
derstood to be valid for only a limited specified period,
such as might be sufficient for rest and preparation for the
continuance of the journey. Indefinite prolongation might
be and was regularly granted in ancient Israel upon the
supplication of the wanderer. Then he became " a guest
and a sojourner " (itt'ihi n? Gen. xxiii. 4 ; Lev. xxv. 35, 47 ;
Ps. xxxix. 12 ; 1 Chr. xxix. 15 ; cf. Ps. cxix. 19). He con-
formed to the social usages of the protecting community
and made an acknowledgment of its deity or deities, con-
tributing to the support of the institutions of the land, but
not initiated into its sacred rites and mysteries. It would
seem that such " sojourners " sometimes became men of
propert3> to whom native-born freemen were beholden for
money and to whom they might eventually become bond-
men (Lev. xxv. 47). This, however, can scarcely have
been a feature of early Israelitish times. By coming fully
under all the prescriptions of Hebrew life, religious and
social, the fourth stage was reached, when the client be-
came an accredited citizen, and a full member of the com-
munity, on a level with the native-born freemen (hits).
He thus ceased to be in any sense a client of his former
patrons, and was numbered with them among the clients
of their God.


§ 550. By the very nature of the case the last stage,
that of complete absorption into the ranks of the tutelary
community, was speedily reached by the great majority of
strangers who ventured to enter upon the third. This was
Israel's pre-eminent opportunity. From the beginning of
its separate career as a prospective nation it had a substan-
tial clientage. The "mixed multitude" (§ 453 f.) of its
desert wanderings could only have been tolerated as a
permanent following in view of its rapid assimilation.
Some of the most conspicuous accessions soon became
leaders in Israel. For example, the Kenites furnished the
illustrious names of Heber, Caleb, Othniel, besides others
not so renowned. When large bands such as these became
a part of Israel, their acceptance of the religion of Jehovah
and its peculiar rites was a matter of course. Later we do
not hear so much of whole clans, but of individuals, such as
Uriah the Hettite, Ittai of Gath, Zelek of Amnion (2 Sam.
XV. 19; xxiii. 37). Now Israel was absolutely dependent
upon such clients. In the presence of countless hostile ele-
ments which perpetually threatened confusion and destruc-
tion, during the regime of the Judges and at long periods
intermittently thereafter, the conciliation of outsiders was
an obvious political duty. They were besides much in de-
mand as recruits for the soldiery (§ 520). Of the two great
classes, bondmen and strangers, the latter were permanently
the most important as feeders and auxiliaries. With the
Canaanites, war to the death was for a time the theoretical
policy. Practically, as we have seen, they were in most
cases made bondmen, and then in large numbers emanci-
pated. The " strangers " were from divers communities,
which were not under the sacred ban.^

1 The prescription of Deut. xxiii. 3 ff. against Moabites and Ammonites
was evidently not observed, at least till after the time of David. The
feud with Moab of the days of Ehud (§ 188) was quite forgotten in the
later portion of the epoch of the Judges, as the Book of Ruth shows plainly.
The association of David and his family with Moab just before his acces-
sion was of the most intimate kind (1 Sam. xxii. 3 f.). For Ammon, David's
life-guardsman, mentioned above, is a case in point.


§ 551. It may be asked how it came to pass that assim-
ilation and incorporation could take place so rapidly and
on such an extensive scale. The answer is threefold. In
the first place, the social conditions which prevailed through-
out the whole ancient era made membership in one clan
or another always desirable, and usually an absolute neces-
sity for self-protection and even for the conveniences of
life. Secondly, a transfer of political and religious alle-
giance was the most natural thing in the world, when each
country and often each locality had its own deity, whose
tutelage was extended as a matter of course to his clients
within his jurisdiction, and to them alone. Again, the
reception into the new society with its special religious
and social observances was not a matter requiring a serious
change of conviction or indeed any sort of an inward
struggle of mind and conscience. The essence of the
matter was the observance of certain well-understood cere-
monies and formal prescriptions. True, Israel occupied a
high moral position, from the spiritual claims made upon
the votaries of its religion. But we read the Old Testa-
ment records to little purpose if we fail to recognize the
abounding evidence they contain of wide-spread practical
ignoring of these stern conditions during the greater
portion of its history. Where Jehovah was sincerely wor-
shipped under animal forms popularly associated with the
rites of Baal ; where " high-places " were everywhere to
be found with altars dedicated to his service ; and where
every hedge-priest could minister at the shrines of the God
of the land, no conscientious obstacles to the acceptance
of the popular religion were likely to suggest themselves.
Moreover, the initial outward condition of attachment to
the religion and community of Israel, the rite of circum-
cision, was one not unfamiliar to the majority of Semites.
It may be remarked that the clearest social distinction
possible is made between the slaves and "strangers," by
the enactment that the former were to be invariably cir-
cumcised, as already being members of the household,


whether they were bought with money or were home-born.
The rite was, of course, prescribed for strangers only when
they were adopted into the community.

§ 552. Naturally the accessions to the ranks of Israel
from outside sources were more frequent in prosperous
times and in seasons of peace. In times of hard fighting,
soldiers of fortune might be naturalized (cf. § 520), but
the country would receive but few spontaneous immigrants.
The additions during the reigns of David and Solomon must
have been very great. It is highly suggestive that just
such epochs are chosen in the poetical literature as sym-
bols of the ideal Israel, when it would be enlarged by the
incorporation of foreign citizens who should come as in a
stream to Jerusalem. The national policy in this regard
seems to have been unaffected by prosperity or disaster.
It was one of unvarying clemency and consideration. As
toward the slave (§ 542 ff.), so towards the stranger, no
harshness was to be shown. There was added too the same
touching reminder, " For ye were strangers in the land of
Egypt" (Ex. xxii. 21; xxiii. 9; Lev. xix. 33 f . ; xxv. 23;
Deut. X. 18 f . ; cf. Ex. xxiii. 12; Lev. xix. 10; Numb.
XXXV. 15 ; Deut. i. 16). The invidious distinctions pre-
scribed in certain matters, such as liberty to lend to them
on usury (Deut. xxiii. 20), or giving them to partake of
food ceremonially unclean (Deut. xiv. 21), were rather
in the nature of favours to Israel than discriminations
against alien residents of the land. On the other hand, the
indirect encouragements to affiliation were very strong.
When once the uniting bond had been ratified, the whole
circle of Israelitic privileges was open: the Passover
(Ex. xii. 48; Numb. ix. 14), the joyous feasts (Deut. xvi.
9 ff. ; xxxi. 12; cf. xxvi. 12 f.), and the solemn covenants
(Deut. xxix. 10 f. ; Josh. viii. 33 f.).

§ 553. The Hebrew system of the adoption of strangers
was the very soul and life of the universalism of the later
prophets. In idealizing this relation, as when they trans-
figure the associations of domestic life (§ 399, 407, 426,


429, 432 f.), the seers and poets of Israel instinctively seize
upon the national attitude and policy towards strangers
in its grand potentiality and significance. In the prayer
at the dedication of the Temple, which was " to be called
a house of prayer for all the peoples " (Isa. Ivi. 7), and to
which, as the religious centre of the Avorld, all nations
should come streaming (Isa. ii. 2 ff. ; Mic. iv. 1 ff.), Solo-
mon intercedes (1 K. viii. 41 ff.) in behalf of the " stran-
ger" in Israel who should worship at the sacred place.
Isaiah foresees that Egyptians and Assyrians shall join
with Israel in oblation and sacrifice and privilege and
blessed conditions (Isa. xix. 18 ff.). The Second Isaiah
declares of the foreigners who join themselves to Jehovah,
that their sacrifices should be just as acceptable to him
as those of the native-born Israelites (Isa. Ivi. 6 f. ; cf.
xliv. 5 ; xlv. 22 f. ; Ix. 3 ff. ; Ixvi. 18 ff. ; Jer. iii. 17 ; xvi.
19; Zech. ii. 11, and especially viii. 20 ff.).

§ 554. The same exulting anticipation is expressed in
the lyrical accompaniments of the prophetic voices. That
Jehovah is the Ruler of the nations is a frequent boast of
the Psalmists (Ps. ii., Ixxii., Ixxv., Ixxxii., ex.). But
some of them know of a more intimate and blessed rela-
tion. One declares that the emancipation of Israel is to
be followed by the gathering of the peoples and kingdoms
in Jerusalem to serve Jehovah (Ps. cii. 19 ff. ; cf. Ixxxvi.
9). Another presents us with the picture of a great fes-
tal sacrifice. A rejoicing over the deliverance of God's
faithful ones from deadly peril is the immediate occasion.
But the very thought of the great redemption makes all
the ends of the earth turn adoringly to Jehovah ; and all
the kindreds of the nations are invited to the feast of
thanksgiving. All alike — the nobles, the serfs, and the
half-famished poor — are then to partake of the sacrifice
and share in the worship (Ps. xxii. 25 ff. ; cf. Isa. xxv.
6 ff,). The impassable gulf of separation is bridged over
by the common meal and the common religious service.
Here we have the essential elements in the naturalization


of the '" stranger." The hospitality of the feast makes
him a guest of Israel ; fellowship in worship makes him a
fellow-citizen. Another gives us a still wider and pro-
founder view (Ps. Ixxxvii.), in beautiful consonance with
a prophetic utterance already cited (Isa. xliv. 5). Fore-
most among the thronging nations, the world-powers of
the poet's time — Egypt, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, and
Ethiopia — receive the birth-right of Israelites. In Zion,
wdiere the new citizens are proclaimed to be votaries^ of
Jehovah, a record is kept of the old affiliations and the
new. And see, the newcomers are not enrolled as prose-
lytes and foreigners I They are entered in the register
as free-born citizens of Zion (cf. § 549). Lastly, still
another Psalmist — the same who sings, " Jehovah looseth
the prisoners " (§ 546) — sums up for us the essential
spirit and motive of the law and sentiment of Israel with
regard to outsiders, " Jehovah preserveth the strangers "
(Ps. cxlvi. 9).

§ 555. We have thus seen that slavery of the Hebrew
or Old Testament type, and the traditional treatment of
aliens, were two of the most beneficent and conservative
of the social institutions of Israel. We may now resume
our inquiry into the effects of Hebrew life and manners as

Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 39)