A question about the bible and slavery

I had a discussion with a friend of mine some hours ago. I had questions and wanted to get his insight into the matter. I asked him:

“Why does the bible not identify slavery as an evil? Under the Old Testament, slavery was accepted as the norm and was even practised by the Jews. Under the New Testament, we have commandments for slaves to obey their masters. We have commandments to treat slaves fairly. Not one word about slavery being wrong. Not one command to set them free. Why?”

The bible and slavery

Here was his response: “Honestly, I haven’t thought about it. But I’m going to go on a limb and say that it’s because the Bible doesn’t see slavery as evil. Rather, the mistreatment of slaves is the evil”.

To that I replied, “That is a very long limb. The very act of enslaving someone is mistreatment because it strips them of the very essence of humanity – free will and self determination.”

“No more comments”, my friend responded. Then he asked me if I had a take on it.

My reply was that I had none at all. I can’t understand how a just God didn’t point this out and didn’t take a stand against it.

My friend sighed. I understood. It is deserving of a sigh.

So, here it is in the open. I am asking: Why does the Bible – inspired by a just God – not identify slavery as an evil? I welcome all bible scholars – everyone actually – to contribute to this discussion.

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