Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

the special benefit of all those whose case the other statutes would not cover. The chapter of laws in regard to the Jubilee is occupied, first, with specific enactments as to the operation of the Jubilee on the distribution or restoration of personal possessions; secondly, with similar specific enactments as to personal liberty. It is necessary to separate the respective clauses in regard to liberty, and to analyze them with great care. Clause First, of Personal Liberty. The first clause is from verse 39 to 43 inclusive. We quote it in our common version, because it is essential at this point to remark the false sense put upon the law by the use of the English word bondmen, assumed as meaning slaves. The effect of this construction is like that of loading dice, or of forging an additional cipher to a ten pound note, making it worth, apparently, instead of 10, a 100. The clause is as follows: "If thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee, thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bond-servant, but as an hired servant, and as a sojourner he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of Jubilee; and then shall he depart from thee, he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possessions of his fathers shall he return. For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as bondmen. Thou shalt not rule over him with rigor, but shalt fear thy God." We must examine the Hebrew, phrase by phrase. In the first verse, be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee, ~V—o«,i wax poor, and sell himself unto thee. Beyond all question, the translation of urea, Niphal, of i?« (the word here used for selling), should be, sell himself. (1.) Niphal, as reflexive of Kal, admits it; (2.) the context requires it; (3.) in the 47th verse the translators have so rendered it, if thy brother sell himself unto the stranger, the Hebrew word and form being precisely the same, urea. The context requires it, because, being a Hebrew, he could not be sold by another; it is poverty on account of which he sells himself, and he is not sold for debt or for crime; and if any master had possessed the power to sell him, his waxing poor would not have been the reason. His waxing poor is the reason for selling himself, or in other words, apprenticing himself, until the year of Jubilee; and by law, no being but himself had this power over him, or could make such a contract. And it was perfectly voluntary on his part, a transaction which he entered into for his own convenience and relief. The next Hebrew phrase respects the manner in which the master to whom he had thus hired himself was to treat him; it was a proviso guarding and protecting the poor servant from a despotic and cruel exercise of authority. It is translated, Thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant; but the Hebrew is simply as follows: iasrrxi ias rnss ia, thou shalt not impose upon him the service of a servant, that is, the hard work of a servant, who, not being engaged "T'atoB, as a hired servant, by the day or the year, for a particular service, could be set to any work without any new contract or additional wages. As we have clearly seen, there is no term nor phrase in the Hebrew language to signify what we mean by the words slave, bondman, or bondservant; and there was no law in the Hebrew legislation which permitted any Hebrew to be, or to be treated as, slave, bondman, or bondservant. But a poor man, making a general contract of his services till the Jubilee, might be cruelly treated by his master, when there had been some proviso specifying and limiting the power and the manner. Therefore, when it is said, Thou shalt not impose upon him the service of a servant (that is, an i3s, hired as a servant of all work), it is immediately added, As a hired servant and as a sojourner he shall be with thee, irvr aisira "ratoa; and this phrase is explanatory of the other, and introduced to make the other specific and indubitable in its meaning. The freedom and independence of a hired servant and a sojourner were guaranteed to the Hebrew servant, although he had engaged to be with his master as an ias, until the Jubilee. The proviso is then introduced for his return with his children to the possession of his fathers in the year of Jubilee; and, last of all, it is repeated again (verse 42) that they shall not sell themselves with the selling of a servant, an ias, and the master should not rule over him with rigor, but should fear the Lord. Here we cannot but notice the extreme carelessness with which, for want of examination of the Hebrew and the context, and in consequence, also, of taking for granted the preconceived opinions on this subject, as if slavery among the Hebrews were a thing not to be doubted, some able writers have fallen into very gross errors. As an example, we find in Trench's work on the Parables the following assertion : " That it was allowed under the Mosaic law to sell an insolvent debtor is implicitly stated, Lev. 25: 39; and verse 41 makes it probable that his family also came into bondage with him; and we find allusion to the same custom in other places (2 Kings 4:1. Neh. 5: 6. Isa. 1: 1. 58: 6. Jer. 34: 8—11. Amos 2: 6. 8: 6)." i Singular indeed that this writer should call Lev. 25: 39 an implicit statement that by the laws of Moses it was allowed to sell an insolvent debtor, when there is no reference whatever in the passage or the chapter to any such law, or to any sale for debt, nor any intimation that any such thing was possible! The references to the passages in illustration are instances of mistakes equally gross; but, as we have before considered those passages, we shall revert to only one, that in 2 Kings 4:1, because it is often perverted. There is, in that passage, no mention of any sale, nor any intimation of it; but it is said, "The creditor has come to take unto him my two sons to be servants (oiiask)." That is, has come demanding that my two sons be put to service till they work out the debt; farther than this there is no demand; and as to any law for the sale of the debtor, it exists only in the imagination of the writer; there was no such law nor permission. But thus carelessly and frequently have assertions been made and reiterated, of which, if any student wishes to be convinced, let

l Trench. Notes on the Parables, p. 127. him turn to Home's Introduction, to the chapter on the condition of slaves and servants, and the customs relating to them. He will find, on a single page, almost as many mistakes and misstatements as there are lines; all proceeding from the first false assumption, taken up without investigation, that all the servitude in the Old Testament was slavery, and that, wherever the word servant occurs, it means slave. These statements have been repeated so often, that they have come to be regarded as truisms, and, by possession and reiteration, are in many minds impregnable. The implicit statement Mr. Trench might have found to be, on comparing verse 42 with verse 39, that they shall not be sold with the selling of bondmen, " Thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bond-servant;" and, in the original, he might have found that it is the sale of the man by himself which is referred to, and under such circumstances as would put him in a condition, from being entirely poor, of so great improvement as to be able himself to buy back his contract in a short time. The making of the contract of his services, for a specified time, was said to be the selling of himself; and the securing a right, by contract, to those services, was the buying of a servant. Here, again (verse 42), the common version translates as follows: They shall not be sold as bondmen, although the verb is the same, and the form is the same (Niphal of "os) as in verse 39, and afterwards 47, where it is rendered sell himself. But the Hebrew is simple and clear, iaS. rvnsan raw sft, they shall not sell themselves the selling of a servant, that is, an of unlimited contract, and of all work. This phrase, ia5 rnsaa, is nowhere else employed. It seems to denote a venal transaction, as in regard to a piece of goods, or a thing over which the buyer and the seller have the supreme power. Such a transaction would have been, in reference to a human being, a slave-trade; and such a transaction, in regard to a human being, was absolutely and expressly forbidden. The Hebrew people were God's property, God's servants, and they should never sell themselves, nor be sold, as the property of others. Not only was this transaction forbidden to any one for another, and to any two for any third party, but to every one for himself. No man was permitted, or had the right, to enslave himself. The voluntary hiring of himself to a Hebrew master, or even to a stranger, as we shall see, to the year of Jubilee, was not slavery, nor any approximation thereto. And to prevent the possibility of its ever passing into slavery, the proviso was inserted, making it a crime to apprentice themselves, or to be apprenticed, beyond a limited time. It is very plain, therefore, that the words bond-servant and bondman are a wrong and very unfortunate translation, because they convey inevitably, to an English ear, a meaning wholly different from that of the original. They seem to recognize slavery, where no such thing is to be found. By the central, fundamental law, which we have already examined, no Hebrew could be made to serve as a bondservant or bondman, under any circumstances, but only as an apprenticed servant for six years. The object, therefore, of the enacting clause which we have now examined was simply this, namely, that if he became so poor as to be obliged to enter into a contract of service till the year of Jubilee, he should not be held, even during that time, as an apprenticed servant merely, but as a hired servant and sojourner. And if the question recurs, In what particular as a hired servant and a sojourner? the answer is plain: First, in respect to specific labor, in contradistinction from the obligation of the servant of all work. The hired servant and the sojourner could contract for themselves in some particular service, and could not be commanded to any other without a new agreement; the servant of all work was of an inferior condition, employed for any labor whatever of which his master might have need, or for which he might require him. Secondly, in respect to appointed wages at specific times, which wages must be continued, although the contract of service was till the year of Jubilee; and this in contradistinction from the condition of the servant whose purchasemoney, or the payment of his services and time, for whatever period engaged, was all given to himself at the outset,

« AnteriorContinuar »