What these apologists don't usually tell you is that the laws regarding non-Hebrew slaves was different. The contrast is seen clearly in Leviticus 25 (NIV).
Law regarding Hebrew servants
If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave. He is to be treated as a hired worker or a temporary resident among you; he is to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. Then he and his children are to be released, and he will go back to his own clan and to the property of his forefathers. Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God (vv. 39-43).Law regarding non-Hebrew slaves
Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly (vv. 44-46).Note, (1) the non-Hebrew slavery was in fact based on race. They must be non-Hebrews. (2) The slaves became the property of the slaveholder, and could even be inherited by the master's children. That appears to be the same as the slavery of the antebellum South. (3)These slaves were slaves for life with no hope of gaining freedom. (4) They could be treated ruthlessly. The last part of v. 46 says that fellow Israelites cannot be treated ruthlessly. The implication is that non-Israelites could be so treated.
Thus, there can be no doubt that the slavery of non-Hebrews condoned by the God of the Bible was not much different, if different at all, from the slavery practiced in the Old South. My purpose in this post, though, is to focus on something that the God of the Bible condoned that is not widely known or recognized, namely rape.
In Exodus 21:1-11, laws are laid down related to Hebrew servants. These laws are part of what is usually called, The Book of the Covenant or The Covenant Code (Exod. 20:22-23:33). Douglas Stuart writes:
This foundational portion of the Sinai covenant continues without interruption from the Ten Commandments. Although God left off speaking directly to all the Israelites at their request after the Ten Commandments (20:19), he had not stopped revealing his covenant. Moses simply went directly to the top of the mountain (20:21) and the instructions continued . . . . Now the divine discourse continues with what has come to be called the Covenant Code, a basic block of laws that guide the behavior of God's covenant people ( New American Commentary: Exodus , p. 473).So, following on the heels of the 10 Commandments are these regulations regarding female slaves (I doubt any of the Christian Right want to post these on public property):
If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do.If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money (Exod. 21:7-11--NIV).The word tranlated "servant" in verse 7 is the Hebrew word אמה ('amah ) which means maid-servant, female slave, maid, handmaid or concubine (Gesenius' Hebrew Lexicon, p. 63 ). So, here we have God condoning a man selling his own daughter to be a female slave. Note the phrase if she does not please her master (v. 8). What does this have reference to? Certainly, it means that he does not find her sexually satisfying. So, if the master has sex with his female slave and decides he does not like her, he has four options: 1) get his money back ("let her be redeemed"); 2) give her to his son as his wife; 3) continue to provide for her; or 4) let her go free.
Carolyn Pressler writes:
The law of the enslaved daughter highlights the extensive authority a father has over his daughter. He may sell her into bondage. She is one of his economic assets; her economic worth is, first of all, her sexuality and her reproductive capacity. Because she is purchased for sexual purposes, the daughter, if sold, does not go free at the end of six years (Gender and Law in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East, eds. Victor Matthews, Bernard Levinson, and Tikva Frymer-Kensky , p. 162).So, a master buys a young girl to be his slave. She has no rights of her own but belongs now to her master. When her master has sex with the slave girl is it rape? Rape is defined as: unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent.
Even if the girl were to give her consent, it would still be rape because as a slave she is incapable of valid consent. A slave has no will of her own. She is fully at the disposal of her master. As Martin Noth writes, only the man is a person, while the woman on the other hand is a possession. (Exodus: A Commentary, 1962, p. 177). The slave laws are unquestionably written from an androcentric perspective. The presumed audience is male. ... Women are referred to in these text as objects of men's claims and obligations (Pressler, p. 160).
Now I can hear some apologist saying that the slave girl actually becomes the wife of her master with all of the privileges that entails. That is simply not true. As Pressler points out:
Three factors indicate that the daughter assigned to her master (v.8) or his son (v.9) was regarded as a slave rather than a "full wife" or "free wife." First, the drafters of Exod. 21:7-11 carefully use terminology that distinguished the girl from a free wife. . . . she is called an 'amah (אמה) not an 'ishshah (אשה). She is sold (makar--מכר), not given in marriage (nathan--נתן) The purchaser is referred to as her master or owner ('adown--אדון), not her husband (ba`al--בעל).Since God only regulates this practice and does not forbid it, it seems crystal clear that the God of the Bible is condoning rape. More instances of God condoning rape will be seen in the next post.
Secondly, if her master dislikes her, he causes her to be redeemed; if he deprives her of food, clothing, or oil (?), he must let her go free for no payment. Redemption and letting go free are ways of speaking about the manumission of slaves, not the divorce of a wife. . . .
Thirdly, the view that the girl is a free wife rather than a slave wife is based largely on v. 9, which accords her the customary rights of a daughter, and v. 11, which requires her master to provide her with clothing, food and oil (?). Neither phrase demonstrates that the 'amah (אמה) has the status of a free wife (pp. 163-64).