Therefore thus said the LORD; You have not listened to me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother…
Ye have not hearkened unto me, etc. The Jews had become shamefully guilty of this sin of enslaving their brethren. They who had once been slaves themselves, but redeemed by God; they whose whole Law was a protest against it in its real forms of permanence and cruelty; they who were on no higher level than those they enslaved, all being on the same equality with God, members of the same race, worshippers of the same God; - the slavery they were now practising was abhorrent indeed. Concerning slavery - the permanent and absolute possession of a fellow man, to buy and sell and do with him as he please - this is ever a great sin.
I. NATURE CONDEMNS IT.
1. We have a moral nature, a conscience, and this plainly condemns the degradation of a human being to a mere chattel,
2. Think of ourselves as slatted, and then how prompt we are to condemn. But if one man may be so held, then every man may.
3. All are on an equality before God, and have equal rights and responsibilities.
4. And chiefly because man is made in the imagine of God. Dare we make a chattel of him who bears the image and superscription of Deity? At once our heart condemns.
II. THE WORD OF GOD CONDEMNS IT.
1. Not by direct prohibition. Enough is known in the circumstances of the ages of the Bible to show abundant reason wherefore the servants of God were not commissioned to go and everywhere denounce this practice.
2. Nor by the absence of examples of good men who kept slaves. It was the universal practice.
3. Nor by absence of implied sanctions of this relationship. These facts have been urged in its favour, but we may urge:
(1) That if everything not distinctly prohibited in the Bible be right, then many very wrong things would be justified. For very few detailed rules for definite acts are given, but principles from which the mind of God may be easily inferred and his Law applied to all the minutiae of daily life.
(2) Paul no more sanctioned slavery than he did the vilest despotism, for if he told slaves to obey their masters, he bade all men be subject to the higher powers. Now, Nero was on the throne at that time. What the Word of God and experience alike teach is that the violent subversion of evil almost always inflicts greater evil than it removes.
(3) And the sacred writers had faith in the sure, even if silent, spread of the great principles of Christ which taught "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
(4) And as to the Old Testament slavery and the Mosaic laws in regard to it, it is to be noted that it was a far milder and more genial thing than aught that modern times have known; and next, that the laws of Moses were given on this matter "for the hardness of men's hearts," so that, as with the law of divorce, what could not wisely be at once put down should be so limited and controlled as to be divested of its greater evils. But no greater slander or falsehood can be maintained than to say that the Bible upholds slavery. Its tone and teaching and its universal influence have been to put an end everywhere to the accursed thing.
III. EXPERIENCE CONDEMNS IT. Its influence on the slave, on the master, on the nation, the Church; its moral, domestic, political influence, - all are disastrous and deadly. It is the prolific parent of the worst vices - selfishness, cruelty, licentiousness, tyranny. It has sealed the doom of all nations that have adhered to it, and must ever do so; whilst justice and freedom have ever had resting on them the manifest blessing of God. Christ came to preach liberty to the captives; his gospel is the Magna Charta of the human race. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.
WEB: Therefore thus says Yahweh: you have not listened to me, to proclaim liberty, every man to his brother, and every man to his neighbor: behold, I proclaim to you a liberty, says Yahweh, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be tossed back and forth among all the kingdoms of the earth.