Servant or Slave (A Side Note to Basics)
Is Israel a servant? is he a homeborn slave? why is he spoiled? Jeremiah 2:14.
Servant and slave are two distinctly different words. They do not mean the same thing. All too often bible expositors and new versions confound the two. The ESV for example uses the word "slave" in places where the far more proper term of "servant" is meant. When our King James translators used the word "slave" it was with great care. Jeremiah asked two distinctly different questions. First, he wanted to know if Israel was a servant. Second, he asked if Israel was a homeborn slave. What is the difference?
The Oxford English Dictionary which can take us back to the 16th and 17th century to give us definitions, defines slave as: One who is the property of, and entirely subject to, another person, whether by capture, purchase, or birth; a servant completely divested of freedom and personal rights. This is in contrast to a servant. A servant retains some rights. This is best defined by the OED as: In wider sense: One who is under the obligation to render certain services to, and to obey the orders of, a person or a body of persons, esp. in return for wages or salary.
In the first question, Jeremiah wonders if Israel is reduced to working for others. In the second question, Jeremiah wonders if he has lost all rights by birth and is reduced to involuntary servitude. The ESV basically asks the same thing twice and in doing so confuses the issue. “Is Israel a slave? Is he a homeborn servant?" The implication of being a homeborn servant is that he was born into servitude. The NIV reduces two questions to one question and in so doing defines servant as a homeborn slave. "Is Israel a servant, a slave by birth?"
All of this matters if we are to understand the role that our King James Bible has had on our history. 19th century historian Richard Hildreth wrote a remarkable treatise on American slavery called Despotism in America. Originally published in the 1840s, it was updated up through a very good edition in 1854 which contains some excellent observations on a slave society. What makes Hildreth's work so remarkable is his account of how biblical Christianity rolled into English Common Law freed slaves in Massachusetts and got the ball rolling throughout common law states to ban slavery.
The passage that common law courts used to free slaves is Exodus 21:1-2, Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. A Hebrew purchased under Moses's Law could not be held in bondage for more than 7 years. He retained rights under the law. Since time immemorial, the English Courts had applied all rulings between Hebrews in Moses's Law to interactions between Christians. Therefore, under the Common Law, a Christian could not own a Christian for over 7 years.
When Massachusetts wrote its first constitution during the American War for Independence, they could not muster the votes to ban slavery. Yet, John Adams was to note that by 1790 there was not a slave left in Massachusetts. Hildreth explains that this was accomplished by slaves suing for their freedom in common law courts. Lord Mansfield's epic ruling against colonial slaves retaining their bondage while visiting England was made in 1774. It was a Common Law ruling made prior to American Independence so its precedent was valid in American Courts. Exodus 21:2 was the lynchpin to free slaves.
The whole idea of indentured servitude came from Exodus 21:2. A poor person in Europe could sell himself and his family to an enterprising sea captain who would in turn sell that man and his family to a struggling farmer or entrepreneur in America. After 7 years the common law dictated that the family was now free. Many people when researching their genealogies find that their ancestors came here under that just system backed up by bible. The revolution in Massachusetts happened because slaves proved that by the Common Law and by the bible they were not slaves. They were servants and incapable of being held longer than 7 years. How fortunate for them that the ESV hadn't been around then.
Look at Exodus 21:2 in the ESV; When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. Note that even though he is to go free, his status is that of slave. He has no rights. No such person could sue in a Common Law Court. It is a confusion of terms. It is no wonder that after a couple of generations of people having been raised on imprecise bible versions, they no longer trust basing their legal system on the bible.
What Hildreth decried was the use of Roman Law which he defined as any legislative act which used a representative body to override the common law. Those states which retained slavery well into the 19th century did so by overriding the common law which was based on Moses's Law. He called it despotism. This is one reason that altering the bible with new versions is so disastrous. English Speaking people had been conditioned to see their laws as in harmony with an eternal book. That view was shattered by the twin blows of new versions and evolutionary theories in the century following Darwin, and Westcott and Hort.
The only other time that our King James Bible uses the word "slave" is in the Book of Revelation. And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men, Revelation 18:11-13.
It is evident that the socialist and Muslim practices of enslaving men will gain the ascendancy in the last days. One of the principal ways of doing that is to confuse people so that they cannot discern their rights in any exact way. Everything becomes relative to the situation. There are no eternal truths anymore. Those of us who are King James Bible Believers need to understand. We will never reform our national capitals, our state or provincial capitals, or even our county seats until we have restored a common bible which birthed a common law based on the Laws of Moses. Until the King James Bible reenters the Western psyche, our countries are doomed.
It is amusing to me to see liberals freak out over the Salem Witch Trials. Those trials were held between 1692-1693. The only reason that they stand out in history is that the people who conducted those trials repented of the evil that they had done. Cotton Mather exposed himself and his people as barbaric for their deed. Through his understanding of the word of God, he established the first place on earth where witch trials were banned. There were witches burned on the Iberian Peninsula in the 1930s. A witch was burned in Cattaraugus County New York in 1808 by the Iroquois Indians. Witch trials were legal under the Inquisition until 1834.
The world is desperate for an accurate bible. We have one.