Deuteronomy 23:15, 16
You shall not deliver to his master the servant which is escaped from his master to you:…
We have here a most remarkable law, entirely in the interests of the slave, and showing conclusively that no such thing as property in mankind was recognized in the theocracy. When a slave ran away, the person to whom he repaired is directed to harbor him and give him a place with his servants, but not to restore him to his former master. Here, then, is a fugitive law such as permitted no such monster as a slave-hunter to defile the land of Palestine.
I. THE BIBLE RECOGNIZES NO PROPERTY IN MAN. We cannot do better than quote from Dr. Cheerer's 'God against Slavery,' He says, "The Jewish Law strictly forbade any one from ever returning unto his master that servant that had fled from his master to him. If an ox or an ass had strayed from its owner, any one finding the beast was commanded to restore it to its owner as his property; but if a man's servant had fled away, every one was in like manner forbidden to restore him, demonstrating in the strongest manner that a servant was never regarded as property, and could not be treated as such. A man's ox belonged to him, and must be restored to him as his property; but a man's servant did not belong to him, and could not be his property, and, if he chose to take himself away, was not considered as taking away anything that belonged to his master or could be claimed and taken back by him. It is not possible for an incidental demonstration to be stronger than this."
II. RUNAWAY SLAVES ARE ENTITLED TO AN OPPORTUNITY OF EARNING A LIVELIHOOD. Not only is he not to be restored, but he is also to be allowed a place in the establishment to which he has escaped. Doubtless he had a good idea of a vacancy being there, and the need for an extra servant. In such a case he is to get his chance, and be allowed without oppression to earn his livelihood. We do not assert that every human being, no matter how "heart-lazy," has a right to a living; but every one has surely a right to a livelihood. It is the organization of labor and livelihoods, rather than poor-laws, that should engross the attention of philanthropists.
III. WHILE MEN HAVE NO RIGHT TO OUR PERSONS, GOD HAS - WE ARE HIS. We are God's slaves. "We are bought with a price," and therefore bound to glorify trim with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20). He has a title to us by virtue of creation; but for him we should not have existed. He has a title to us by virtue of his providence; for in him we not only live, but move and have our being. He has a title to us by virtue of redemption; for he has redeemed us at no less a cost than the blood of his Son. He has a title to us by virtue of his inspirations; for any good and holy desires and aspirations we entertain are through the indwelling of his Spirit. If we intelligently recognize our position, we shall own our obligations to him, and acknowledge we are slaves of God. But his slavery is "perfect freedom." Better to be the Lord's slave than the world's freeman. His Law is "the perfect Law of liberty," and when under it we are realizing that broadest phase of freedom which has made his slaves the mightiest of men. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: