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one part of those who owe service, and distinguishing them from the rest as “slaves,’ but only one term for all who are under obligation to render service to others. For males, this is Ebed, servant, man-servant; properly, laborer; for females, Shifchah, Ama, maid-servant, maid. Among a people who occupied themselves with agriculture; whose lawgiver, Moses, and whose kings, Saul and David, went immediately from the herd and from the plough to their high vocation, there could be nothing degrading in an appellation taken from “labor.” The laws respecting servants protect in every regard their dignity and their feelings as men. They by no means surrendered these to the arbitrary will of the masters, as in other ancient and modern states in which slavery and thralldom have prevailed.” The terms buying and selling, applied to one form of contract under which Hebrew servants were procured,t mislead the reader of the English Bible, who associates with these words the idea of the transfer of an article of property for a consideration in money. But the Hebrew term for this “buying ” is as indeterminate as the word for “servant.” It strictly means to get for one's self, to gain, to acquire, to obtain, without reference either to the mode of procuring or to the nature of the tenure.* Eve uses it at the birth of Cain: “I have gotten a man from the Lord.” (Gen. iv. 11.) It is applied to getting wisdom and understanding. (Prov. iv. 7; xv. 32; xvi. 16; xix. 8.) The Lord purchased his people (Ex. xv. 16), and Mount Zion (Ps. lxxviii. 54). “Is not He [the Lord] thy father that hath bought thee?” (Deut. xxxii. 6.) Boaz purchased Ruth to be his wife. (Ruth iv. 10.) But did the heroine of that charming Hebrew pastoral, the direct ancestress of David and of our Lord, become the property of that “mighty man of wealth' who paid court to her innocent beauty by the magnificence of his dowry, paid in presence of the elders and of all the people? Did Boaz “buy" Ruth in the sense in which a Southern planter buys a quadroon? Hence, wherever the Hebrew Scriptures apply this indeterminate word “buying” to denote the acquisition of a person, whether as wife or as servant, the vital question is, “into what relation the so-called act of purchase brings the person purchased.”f Thus, according to Exodus xxi. 8, a man could “sell his daughter to be a maid-servant;” and, according to Leviticus xxv. 39, a man could sell himself and his family for debt; but the context shows that the so-called sale did not make the subject of it a chattel in the hands of the purchaser; for in the one case the maiden was “betrothed,” and had the
* Saalschütz, Das Mosaiche Recht, Kap. 101: “Dienende.” See also in Bib. Sacra, Vol. XIX., p. 33.
# Ex. xxi. 2. “If thou buy a Hebrew servant.” The learned Jewish doctor, M. Kalisch, of London, translates this, “When thou acquirest a servant;” and he adds, “there exists in Hebrew no word for slave in the sense of an individual who is considered merely as an instrument: the Hebrew word means merely laborer, and the most privileged favorites of God are called ‘servants of God.”—Commentary on JErodus.
connubial rights of a consort of second rank;” and in the other, the debtor merely mortgaged his labor for a term of years. Where the servant is spoken of as his master's “money” (Exodus xxi. 20, 21), the sense is obviously, not that he was an article of property, but that, on account of his services, he was worth money to his master. The presumption of the law was that no master would wantonly injure a servant who was valuable to himself; yet if, in a passion, the master killed a servant, the law would call him to account, not for the destruction of his own “property,’” but for the death of a man.' In a word, under the Mosaic law, the servant, however acquired, and by whatever tenure held, was always a person, never a chattel. To understand the law of Hebrew servitude, we must keep in mind the system of property and of labor among the Jews, and also their penal code. The agrarian distribution of land after the conquest of Palestine made every Jewish householder a landowner as well; and the homestead could not be alienated for a longer period than the year of the coming Jubilee.|| Thus agriculture was made the basis of the State, with a subdivision of its territory as minute as now obtains in parts of France. With * Kalisch. Com. in loc. + A similar usage of mortgaging the debtor to the creditor obtains in the Indian Archipelago. It is there called by the Dutch, Pandelingschap, bond-debtorship See note to p. 27. # See in Bib. Sacra, XIX, p. 583; New Englander, XVIII., p. 361.
§ By the Rabbinical interpretation, the master was executed by the sword. See Philippson, Der Pentateuch, Commentary on Ex. xx.
| Jahn, Heb. Archaeology, § 55.
this broad basis of equal prosperity, while the Hebrew code enjoins personal kindness to the poor, it does not legalize pauperism ; it has neither “poor-rates” nor “alms-houses.” “The Mosaic law knows nothing of mendicants, properly so called; and even the word mendicant is not found in the Old Testament.” Nor does it provide houses of detention and correction for vagrants, or prisons for thieves and debtors. Though imprisonment was common in Egypt and in other nations of antiquity, and though it was introduced as a punishment among the Jews in the time of their kings, there is no trace of this method of punishment in the Mosaic code, except, perhaps, the detention of atriminal for trial (Lev. xxiv. 12);f and it is altogether probable that, for several generations, the agricultural community distributed in the small villages of Palestine had neither alms-houses nor prisons. The remedy for theft, vagrancy, or insolvency, was servitude, either voluntary or compulsory.j: * Munk, Palestine, p. 212. + Munk, p. 216; see also I. Kings xxii. 27; Jer. xxxii. 2. # Maimonides enumerates four degrees of punishment: Death, excision, scourging, and admonition. (Reasons for the Laws of Moses, Chap. XVI.) Munk adds fining, or the amende. (Palestine, p. 215.) But the code also provides that in certain circumstances the thief “shall be sold for his theft.” (Exodus xxii. 3.) A somewhat similar code exists among the natives of the Indian Archipelago. In a state of society where personal property is small, and real estate is unknown; where there is no such thing as hired labor for wages; where there are no prisons, and the only punishments are bodily chastisement and death, there exists a custom which consigns the idle pauper and the insolvent debtor to a condition between the citizen and the slave. The Dutch residents of Sumatra call such a person a Pandeling—a bonddebtman, one held as a pledge. The person of the debtor, or of one of his nearest kin, is placed under the control of the creditor, who supports him, but exacts from
his labor the payment of the debt, or, at least, of the interest. The debtor can change masters if he can find any one to buy up the claim. This peculiar institu
Among a primitive agricultural people, occupying a small and subdivided territory, surrounded by jealous and hostile neighbors, when the customs of war gave the captive but the alternative of slavery or death ; and in an age when society had not yet risen to those two great measures of thrift and safety—systematic wages for labor, and legalized imprisonment for robbery and theft—involuntary servitude was a temporary expedient for disposing alike of captives, and of debtors and criminals. And so far forth—that is, as a provisional penal code, as a police regulation, or as a temporary military or economical necessity—such servitude was allowed in the Jewish commonwealth. The term “domicissary imprisonment” has been happily applied by Cochin to describe this feature of the Hebrew police —a system which finds a parallel in the domestication of Indian servants, in the early history of New England. Thus, by the laws of Plymouth colony, vagrant Indian children could be bound to service by the selectmen; and Indian debtors or thieves could be sold for service to satisfy the claim.
Now these penal and domiciliary regulations of Moses, so far from instituting slavery or sanctioning it as a divine constitution of human Society, so limited the dura
tion, originally equitable in principle, by degrees had degenerated into the systematic oppression of the poor and the unfortunate; and the Dutch government in the East Indies has sought to do away with the abuses of Pandelingschap, by bringing this arbitrary social custom under the regulation of law. The mild servitude permitted under like circumstances by the Mosaic code degenerated into the slavery recognized by the Talmud. But the Mosaic code must be judged by the social condition of the Jews at the period of its promulgation. (For an interesting sketch of Pandelingschap, see “La Question de L’Eslavage, aux Etats-Unis par un ancien Fonctionnaire des Indes Néerlandaises.” Published at the Hague, by M. Nijhoff.)