Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

the meaning obviously is that of traffic as in merchandise, and the denunciation of God's wrath follows accordingly. The crime of selling one another is also described by the same word in Amos 2: 6, " they sell the righteous for silver (those that have committed no crime, they sell), and the needy for a pair of shoes. Compare Amos 8:6, where the oppression of buying the poor with silver is denounced along with the crime of perjury and false balances in traffic. The giving, or, in Hebrew phraseology, the buying, of servants, as provided by law, was a just transaction, voluntary on both sides; but in the cases before us, the thing forbidden is the buying and selling of persons against their own consent, who are compelled by their poverty to be thus passed as merchandise; and this is denounced as crime. So in Zech. 11: 5, They that sell them say, Blessed be the Lord, for lam rich; adding to this monstrous crime the iniquity and hypocrisy of invoking and asserting God's blessing upon it . From all these cases it is clear, that in law the word "oa, to sell, when applied to persons, signified a voluntary contract, such as ours of hiring workmen, or the contract between a master and his apprentices; and that in any other cases, except as making restitution for theft, or to work out a just debt, the buying and selling of persons was a criminal transaction. The buying as well as the selling, in such a transaction, is denounced as criminal. It was making merchandise of men, a thing expressly forbidden in the divine law, on penalty of death. Accordingly, even in anticipation of the law, its principles were already acted on. There is not one particle of indication that Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob ever sold one of their servants, nor any supposition of the power or right to do so. Nor ever, from the Patriarchs down, is there any instance of any man or master selling a servant. The history of the word fails to disclose one single case of such merchandise. On the contrary, it proves that it was forbidden, and was regarded as sinful; and that either the holding, or selling, or both, of a servant for gain, and against his will, or without his voluntary contract, was an oppression threatened with the wrath of God. And here belongs the consideration of Deut . 21: 14, the case of the captive woman taken from the heathen for a wife, but afterwards rejected. Two things are forbidden in the treatment of her: 1. Thou shall not sell her at all for money; s;Dtoa ns^SBn-xi -cm. Comp. Ex. 21: 8. 2. Thou shalt not make merchandise of her. Thou shalt not bind her over to another, thou shalt not transfer her to the power of another. She shall not so be subject unto thee, that thou canst deal with her as merchandise or property. The word in this second prohibition is "fflsnn, from "i?*, to bind. Our English translation seems to make it exegetical of the preceding prohibition; but it is not a synonyme with "os, neither was intended as paraphrastic of that. It is the same word employed in Psalm 129: 7, of the mower binding sheaves to be carried away for use or traffic. a iBSnrrxi, thou shalt not play the master or oppressor over her. A comparison of this with Ex. 21: 8, where the English translation speaks of selling a Hebrew woman to a strange nation, which is forbidden, will show that in that passage the translation does not convey the proper meaning; for it was never permitted on any ground, or for any reason whatever, to bind a Hebrew woman to a heathen, or to deliver over to a foreign nation any Hebrew man or woman, as servant or wife. In the case before us (Deut. 21: 14), this is forbidden in regard to the captive taken from the heathen in war; how much more in regard to any Hebrew! The expression in Ex. 21: 8, *r&$> fcercp-Ki "^J Q?), to a strange nation he shall have no power to sell her, should be rendered, to sell her to a strange tribe, or to a strange family; and the meaning evidently is, that she shall not be transferred from her master to any other family, but is wholly free. For the usage of ^"Oi, compare Lev. 21: 1, 4. Eccl. 6: 2. It might mean, to a family of strangers, sojourning in the land, and joined to the congregation by circumcision. The hiring, selling, apprenticing, or disposing of her in any way at all for money, is strictly forbidden. She is perfectly free. The Law against Man-stealingWhat it proves. Immediately after the laws determining the nature and time of contracts with servants, the legislator passes to the crime of murder and the death-penalty against it. Then follows the great fundamental statute, which demonstrates the criminality of slavery in the sight of God: He That Steal

ETH A MAN AND 8ELLETH HIM, OR IF HE BE FOUND IN HIS HAND, HE SHALL SURELY BE PUT TO DEATH (Ex. 21: 16). As the stealing of men is the foundation of slavery in most cases, and especially of modern slavery, this statute condemns it as sinful, intrinsically, absolutely. The stealing, the selling, the holding, of a man in slavery, is death; either form of the crime shall be so punished. Whether the kidnapper keep or sell his victim, the crime is death. But the purchaser, with knowledge of the theft, is equally guilty, and would be treated as conspirator and principal in the same crime. This law, in connection with the other provisions in the Hebrew system, would render slavery impossible. The limitation of legal servitude to six years, and the law of universal freedom on the recurrence of the Jubilee, would alone prevent it; but the law against man-stealing made it as criminal a system as an organized system of murder would have been. The stealing a man is the stealing him from himself; the buying of him is the receiving of stolen property; the enslaving of his children is the stealing of them both from themselves and from him, so that the crime is exasperated in its descent; by transmission, the crime is at once increased in extent and undiminished as to the original iniquity. This law must effectually and forever have prevented any traffic in human beings. It denies the principle of property in man; the selling is the assumption of property in the stolen person, and the selling is punishable by death. The stealing alone, if the thief did not sell, might not be the assertion of property, or of the principle of property in man; but the selling of him would be; and either stealing and holding, or stealing and selling, the crime is put on a level with murder. The stealing of human beings as property, and the converting of them into property, is worse than the stealing of property; as much worse as murder is than stealing. Such is the distinction which God makes between this and a common theft, between the stealing of a man and the stealing of property. The theft of property was punished by fine; but the stealing of a man, by death: "If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it or sell it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep "(Ex. 22: 1). "If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep, he shall restore double" (22:4). Comp. 22: 9. If slavery had had any existence among the Hebrews, any toleration, if man had been considered as property, then the penaltyfor such theft couldnot have been death, butthe restoration of five slaves for a slave, or the payment of five times as much as the stolen man would bring in the market. And the near and striking contrast between these crimes and the respective penalties attached to them, must have made men feel that the assertion of property in man was itself a crime. Accordingly, there is no indication of any traffic in human beings except where it is indicated as a crime, with the wrath of God pointed against it. There was such traffic among other nations, but no approach to it in Judea. The trade in human beings is set down by the prophet Ezekiel as among the commercial transactions in the market-place of Tyre; but no Hebrew had anything to do with it (Ezek. 27:13). It is set down by Joel as a damning trade of Tyre and Zidon, of the heathen, and the Grecians (Joel 3:2—8), and every approximation to it, on the part of Israelis marked for divine vengeance. But no such traffic was allowed, or existed, under the law of God; no such thing as slavery was either recognized or tolerated. There is no instance of the purchase even of servants from a third person, as if they were articles of possession that could be passed from hand to hand, from master to master, without their own agreement. There is no instance of the sale of any servant to a third person. There is no indication that masters ever had any power to sell their servants to others, or to put them away from their own families, except in perfect freedom. Our English translators, and the lexicographers, have indeed, in most cases, assumed slavery and the slavetrade as existing in Judea; but the Mosaic laws and the Jewish history demonstrate the contrary. A single assumption, by Gesenius, that the word for souls in Gen. 12:5 — B|J (souls that Abraham and Lot had gotten in Haran),means slaves, shall be followed, without examination, by other lexicographers, and shall set the tide of opinion to run on without questioning. But the statute under consideration shines like a sun upon such an investigation, and throws its light backwards as well as forwards in history and law, as a light of supreme defining and controlling principle. Human beings cannot be treated as property. There is no restriction; the universality of the law is unquestionable, the subject of it being a man, not a Hebrew man exclusive of a stranger, but a man, whosoever he might be. The universality of this law is as evident as that of the law in verse 12 : " He that smiteth a man so that he die, shall surely be put to death. There is no more ground for restricting the application of the statute against stealing a man to the Hebrew stolen, than that against killing a man. So with the statute against killing a servant; there is no restriction. A comparison of this with Lev. 24:17, 21, 22, makes it still clearer. In this place the statute is also concerning the death-penalty, and the form is as follows: He that killeth any man shall surely be put to death; and 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. So with the laws concerning the treatment of one's neighbor; if any man ask: But who is my neighbor? willing to restrict their application to a countryman, the commentary of our Lord in Luke 10:30, settles the matter. But if so in a smaller injury committed, or benefit required, much more in the greater. Along with this statute is placed the law, Thou shalt not vex a stranger, nor oppress him, Ex. 22:21; and again 23: 9. But finally, the matter is settled by Paul, in 1 Tim. 1:10: "The law is made for man

« AnteriorContinuar »