A Handbook of Bible Law - Servants, employees, etc.

Copyright 1991 by Charles A. Weisman. 2nd Edition: Aug., 1992; 3rd Edition: Dec., 1994

Servants, employees, etc.

Comments: The terms 'servant' and 'service' in the Bible make reference to either the hireling (hired servant), to one bound to serve another for a limited period (indentured servant), or a bondman (slave).

Among the Israelites, involuntary servitude and slave trading was prohibited, and to guard against such practices, God promulgated this ordinance:

"'He that steals a man and sells him, or if he be found in his hands, he shall surely be put to death " (Exod. 21:16; Deut. 24:7).

The service or servitude that existed with the Israelites was either voluntary (Lev. 25:39, 47), or judicially imposed by the law of God as a form of retribution (Exod. 22:3). These conditions of service were never to exceed six years and during the period of indenture the servant was to be treated as a hired servant. This situation was much like the practice of an apprentice who would indenture himself to another man to learn his trade. Under this system a type of master-servant relationship existed for a period of six years.

The law gave the hireling and even the indentured servant many rights and privileges which his employer or master was bound to respect.

21A - Duties of Masters and Employers

  1. You are not to oppress the hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren or a stranger, but shall give him his due wages. Deut 24:14-15; Jer. 22:13.
  2. The laborer is worthy of his hire. Luke 10:7; 1 Tim. 5:18.
  3. Dutiful servants are to be honored. Prov. 27:18.
  4. The wages of a hired man are not to be detained but paid to him the same day. Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:15.
  5. Masters are to give to their servants that which is just and fair. Col. 4: 1.
  6. Masters are to treat servants well and not to threaten them. Eph. 6:9.
  7. God will avenge those who keep back the wages of their hirelings through fraud and exploitation. Mal. 3:5; James 5:4.
  8. You shall not rule over a servant with rigor or severity, but you shall fear your God. Lev. 25:43.
  9. When a servant departs from your service, you shall not let him go away empty-handed, you shall supply him liberally from your estate. Deut 15:13-14. (Severance pay)

21 B - Rules Regarding Servants

  1. Servants and employees are not to work on the Sabbath. Exod. 20:10; Deut. 5:12-14.
  2. A faithful servant should be given authority and a part of the inheritance. Gen. 41:40-43; Prov. 17:2.
  3. No man can serve two masters. Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13.
  4. Your own brethren are not to be compelled to serve as a slave but shall be treated as a hired servant. Lev. 25:39-40, 42.
  5. Do not accuse a servant to his master, lest he curse you and you be found guilty. Prov. 30:10.
  6. A maidservant betrothed to her master can be redeemed but cannot be sold to a foreign nation. Exod. 21:8.
  7. Those of your race can be in service to you for only six years and are to be freed in the seventh year. Exod. 21:2; Deut. 15:12.
  8. If a maid-servant is betrothed to the master's son she shall be treated according to the custom of daughters. Exod. 21:9.
  9. A servant, when free from his service, shall be allowed to depart with that which he had when he went into service. Exod. 21:3-4.
  10. Do not become slaves of men. 1 Cor. 7:23.
  11. If a servant does not want his freedom at the end of six years but desires to remain with his master, he then shall be in servitude to him for life. Exod. 21:5-6; Deut 15:16-17.
  12. A servant is not above or greater than his master. Matt. 10:24; Luke 6:40; John 13:16; John 15:20.
  13. Those who are slaves of foreigners can be treated and bought as slaves (but not free men). Lev. 25:44-46.
  14. A brethren who is poor and sells himself into service to a foreigner can be redeemed at any time by one of his brethren, or if he is able, may redeem himself. Lev. 25:47-49.
  15. A fugitive slave should not be turned over to his master but is allowed to live among you. Deut. 23:15-16.
  16. If a man strikes his servant and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. Exod. 21:20-21.
  17. If a servant is injured by his master he is then to be set free. Exod. 21:26-27.

21C - Duties of Servants and Employees

  1. Servants are to honor their masters, and to respect them all the more when they are believers. Mal. 1:6; 1 Tim. 6:1-2.
  2. Servants are to be obedient to their masters, not with eye service or as man pleasers, but as servants of Christ. Eph. 6:5-6; Col. 3:22.
  3. Servants are to be submissive to their masters. 1 Pet 2:18.
  4. Stewards are to be faithful. 1 Cor. 4:2; Titus 2:10.
  5. Duties of a servant of a priest. Lev. 22:10-11.
  6. Exhortation to servants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God in all things. Titus 2:9.

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