Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Jubilee (Deut. 16:17), and as such he gives her in marriage. In either case, she being bound to him for a longer time than her husband, her children would, of right, and by law, remain with her, under subjection in her master's household, and could not be taken away by the father, if he chose to quit. The children could not be taken from their parents, but after a certain age they were at liberty to chose their own masters, and to make their own terms of service. This resulted inevitably from the law limiting and defining the period of service in every case; even when until the Jubilee, still, most absolutely and certainly defined and limited by that. There was nothing left indefinite, and no room for the assumption of arbitrary power, so long as the provisions of the law were complied with. And it was the breaking of those provisions, and the attempt on the part of the masters to force their servants into involuntary servitude, and so change the whole domestic system of the state from freedom to slavery, that, by the immediate wrath of God in consequence, swept the whole country into a foreign captivity, and consigned the people to the sword, the pestilence, and the famine, Jer. 34: 17. The horror with which any approximation again towards any infraction of the great law of liberty, was regarded, after the return of the Jews from that retributive captivity, is manifested in Neh. 5: 5, and is instructive and illustrative. Let us now see what would be the actual operation of the exceptional contract in Ex. 21:4—6, running on to the Jubilee. That this is the meaning of the word forever, in the terms of this contract, is not disputed, and is incontrovertible from Lev. 25: 39, 40, the law of the Jubilee overriding all others and repressing all personal contracts within itself. At the recurrence of the Jubilee, all were free. Then, after the year of Jubilee, when every family has returned to its original possessions, new engagements were necessarily entered into with servants, new contracts were made. It does not seem likely that, at the outset, any indentures of service for the next forty-nine years would be deemed desirable, either by masters or servants. Almost all contracts would be the ordinary legal ones of six years. But after the expiration of one or two septenniums, there might be cases of contracts looking to the Jubilee. On a probable computation, the instances would be rare of such engagements beginning before the middle, or near the middle, of the period. In that case, if a master gave a wife to his servant, and the covenant was assumed by boring the ear, the children, as n^a->:a, homeborn, the sons of the house, would be under subjection to the master, at the very farthest, not longer than our ordinary period of the minority of children. For example, take the contract of a maid-servant as occurring in the fourth septennium, or say in the twenty-fifth year, an agreement to serve in the family for twenty-three years, or until the Jubilee, and according to the Hebrew idiom for contracts till that time, forever. During the first septennium of this maiden's service, a Hebrew servant is engaged for six years, and soon forming an attachment, asks of his master the maid-servant for a wife. She is given to him by his master, and they have children; and, at the expiration of his six years, he avails himself of his legal privilege, and enters into a new contract with his master till the Jubilee. At that time the oldest of his children would be about twenty-one years of age, and the youngest might be five or ten; they are all free by the operation of the law of Jubilee. From twenty to twenty-five years would ordinarily be the utmost limit of any contract of service, whether for parents or children. The penalties against the master for cruel or oppressive treatment of his servants, were the same, whether the servants were Hebrew or of heathen extraction. Whatever injury was committed against any servant, was to be avenged; for the loss of an eye or a tooth the servant should have his freedom, whatever might have been his contract with his master, whatever sum his master might have paid him beforehand, no matter how many years of unfulfilled service might remain (Ex. 21: 26,27). In connection with a similar section it is added: "Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger as for one of your own country, for I am the Lord your God (Lev. 24: 22). The application of this Vol. XIIL No. 49. 4 principle is beautifully and pointedly illustrated in Job 31: 13—15, and the reason given is the same, namely, that the same God and Creator is the God both of master and servant: "If I did despise the cause of my man-servant or of my maid-servant, when they contended with me, what shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made me in the womb, make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?" If a servant were killed by his master, the punishment was death; if the servant died after some days (Ex. 21, 20, 21), in consequence of blows inflicted by the master, then, in mitigation of the punishment, the presumption was admitted in law that the killing was not intentional; because, the master having paid the servant beforehand for his services up to a certain time, " he was his money," and he could not be supposed to have intended to kill him, unless he did kill him outright; and then the penalty was death. Phraseology for contracts with servants. Selling, or Hiring out. We have illustrated the position of the buyer, and the meaning of the word used for the purchase of servants. Let us now examine the usage of the word which is applied to designate this transaction on the part of the seller. We take the first example from the law of contracts with servants, Ex. 21: 7, 8, if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant. Here the subject of the sale, so called, is a Hebrew daughter. Her sale as a servant could not possibly be anything more than an engagement for six years' service, at the end of which she was again free. The person who purchased her, had no property in her, for she was as free as he was, except in the engagement of service for a limited time. But in the case before us she is sold for a wife, and is purchased as such, and the law defines and secures her rights with her master, who has betrothed her to himself. He buys her for his wife, and must treat her as such, and cannot transfer her to another. If he put her away, she is free without money. She is described as being sold at one and the same time, to be a maid-servant and a wife. She is at once the Stox and the ITCK of the husband. Her master may be the husband himself, or he may marry her to his son; but the section shows that her father has engaged her in the service of the master on condition of her marriage either to one or the other; and if this engagement is not fulfilled, she returns to her father free without money. (1) The word here used for this transaction is the verb "oa, to sell. It is used of contracts with free persons, both as servants and wives. The first instance is in Gen. 31: 15, where Rachel and Leah declare that their father had sold them, merely the concise description of his giving them in marriage to Jacob, who had paid for them to Laban, seven years' personal service for each. The instances in Ex. 21: 7, 8, Gen. 31: 15, and Deut. 21: 14, are the only cases in which the word is employed in reference to a wife. These cases form a class by themselves. (2) Then there is the class of passages in which the same word is applied to the ordinary legal contract of a Hebrew servant with his master or employer. Deut. 15: 12, if a Hebrew man or woman be sold unto thee, "oaV"1? . Jer. 34: 14, hath been sold unto thee, iasi";. Lev. 25: 39, 42, 47, 48, 50, different forms of the same word, To these cases we add the instance of a similar purchase, but forced beyond what the law admits, that is, an arbitrary contract, forbidden in regard to the Hebrew servant. Will ye sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? nw, rem''.. Both the sale and the purchase are forbidden, except on the conditions in Ex. 21: 2—11. ..

(3) The same word is used to designate the crime of man-selling, the idea of contract for service being excluded. It is the sale of persons as of chattels, by way of merchandise. The first instance is in Gen. 37: 27, the selling of Joseph by his brethren, '^sw, let us sell him. Also, 37: 28, Spot? , they sold him. The same Gen. 45: 4, 5, and Ps. 105: 17. This crime of selling a man is described by the same word, and forbidden under penalty of death, Ex. 21: 16, and Deut. 24: 7. (4) A fourth class describes selling as the penalty for theft, Ex. 22: 3. But here the sale is not indefinite; it is in case of the thief not being able to make restitution, in which case he must be sold, that is, put to compulsory service, for such a period as would make up the sum by the customary wages for labor. In this class of passages we include the cases of selling for debt: Is. 50:1, To which of your creditors have I sold you? Compare Matt. 18: 25. The selling for debt is simply an engagement of service for so long time as would be sufficient, by the ordinary legal wages, to pay the legal claim. It was not slavery, nor any selling as of slaves. (5) A fifth class of passages, in which God is described as selling his people for their sins, or causing them to be sold to the heathen. Deut. 28: 68, sold unto their enemies for bondsmen, ye shall be sold, arra^n. Deut. 32: 30, except their rock had sold them, tnvt ^ xVcx. Judges 2: 14'; 3: 8; 4: 2; 10: 7. 1 Sam. 12: 9. Ps. 44: 13. Joel 3: 8. The sense in these cases is that of delivering up into the power of another. Of this meaning is Judges 4: 9, the Lord shall sell Sisera. To this class, must be added Is. 50: 1, and 52: 3, where the Jews are described as selling themselves for their transgressions; that is, they did, by their sins, what God did, for their sins, delivered themselves over into the power of their enemies. (6) A sixth class comprehends 1 Kings, 21: 20, 25, Ahab selling himself to work wickedness, and 2 Kings, 17: 17, the people selling themselves to do evil; that is, giving themselves up unrestrainedly, in consideration of the wages of sin for a season. (7) In a seventh class of passages, the word is employed to describe the bondage of the Jews in their captivity, Neh. 5: 8, a^wn. Add instances in Esther 7: 4, where the word is used to signify delivering or betraying into the power of another, first, for destruction, second, for bondage. (8) In another class still, the heathen are arraigned for the curse of selling Hebrew captives. Joel 4: 3, 6, 7, sold a girl for wine, *H3s ; sold the children to the Grecians, on^sa. Here

« AnteriorContinuar »