The “slavery” of the Torah is not the same form of slavery practiced by Egypt nor even America, which oppressed and mistreated slaves. The masters in Israel had responsibilities to treat the slaves well and provide their basic needs of food, clothing, and habitation. So not anyone could be a “master”, except someone who had land and money to provide for the needs of his slaves. And this is why people who were in poverty typically sold themselves into slavery, because at the very least they could eat and have habitation while serving a master. The slaves also had benefits, and could participate in all the feasts of the Torah, and were given rest on the weekly Shabbath, and were also given rest on the 7 High Shabbaths of the Torah every year. And the slaves also had protections given to them by the Torah, that if they were severely injured, they had to be freed. And ultimately, every slave had to be released after a certain period of time of service, by command of the Torah. And when the slave was freed, he was given a flock for milk and meat and clothing, threshing floor for bread, and press for oil or wine, which gave the slave the ability to be self-sustaining and provide for himself going forward as a free man. So the slavery of the Torah was more like a “work contract” for a definitive period of time, with benefits, and the slave came out winning at the end once he was freed. And the slave worked for the master in whatever the master wanted him to do, such as cleaning, working the fields, and cooking, and the master provided for his basic needs in exchange for his work. A slave that was treated well by his master was a slave that was happy, and a slave that was happy was a slave that was productive and loved his master and could be trusted by the master, so that is why it was logical for masters to treat their slaves well. And that is why the Torah gave certain slaves the option to work for a longer period of time for their masters, out of love for their master that treated them well. As such, the more correct term in English to call the “slaves” in Israel are “servants”, for the word “slave” carries a negative connotation relating the servants of Israel to the slaves of Egypt and America, which is not a form of slavery that the Torah permitted, which is the very reason God freed the sons of Israel from their slavery in Egypt, because of the oppressive form of slavery they endured there. And the more correct term in English to call the “slavery” of the Torah was “servitude”. Also, the word “redeem” in the scriptures means to “purchase to set free from an obligation or tie”. And the word “lord” in the scriptures means “master”, meaning someone who owns land and has servants. Another thing to note is that men could have multiple wives, so it was common for masters to also marry their female servants. A female servant did not automatically become a wife to her master, nor did she become his “sex slave”, for the master had to separately marry her if he desired her sexually, just as he would marry any other free woman.
Responsibilities and Obligations of the Master
- Provide food for the servant. A servant that is weak because of hunger or dying of hunger is useless to a master who needs him to be productive.
- Provide clothing for the servant. A servant that is clothed is a happy servant.
- Provide habitation for the servant. A servant that has a comfortable place to sleep is a happy servant.
- Circumcise every male servant, whether Hebrew or not, whether born in the household or not, in accordance to Genesis 17:12.
- Find a wife for his male servants. And find a husband for his female servants. A servant with a spouse is a happy servant, and a happy servant is a more productive servant. And a female servant that is giving birth to children is also beneficial to the master, because those children will also become servants of the master, which he did not have to purchase to acquire.
- Give all his servants rest every week on the Shabbath. A servant that is given rest is a happy servant.
- Give all his servants rest on the 7 High Shabbaths of the Torah every year.
He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring,Genesis 17:12-13
both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an aeonial covenant.
Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the foreign resident, may be refreshed.Exodus 23:12
And Yehovah said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, but every servant that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him.”Exodus 12:43-44
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day you shall hold a set-apart assembly, and on the seventh day a set-apart assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you.Exodus 12:15-16
Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to Yehovah your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as Yehovah your God blesses you. And you shall rejoice before Yehovah your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that Yehovah your God will choose, to make his name dwell there.Deuteronomy 16:10-11
On the day of the firstfruits, when you offer a grain offering of new grain to Yehovah at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a set-apart convocation. You shall not do any ordinary workNumbers 28:26
Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh new moon, on the first day of the new moon, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a set-apart convocation.Leviticus 23:24-25
You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present an offering by fire to Yehovah.”
You shall keep the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns.Deuteronomy 16:13-14
“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh new moon and for seven days is the Feast of Tabernacles to Yehovah. On the first day shall be a set-apart convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. For seven days you shall present offerings by fire to Yehovah. On the eighth day you shall hold a set-apart convocation and present an offering by fire to Yehovah. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.Leviticus 23:34-36
Benefits Given to the Servants
- Rest on the Shabbaths of the Torah, which was every week on the 7th day. Also in Nisan 15 and Nisan 21 of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Also on Pentecost, which was anywhere from Sivan 6 to Sivan 12. Also in Tishri 1 on the appointed time of trumpets blasts. Also in Tishri 10 on the Day of Atonement. And also in Tishri 15 and Tishri 22 of the Feast of Tabernacles. In total there were 7 High Shabbaths.
- Participate in the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, in accordance to Exodus 12:44.
- Participate in the Feast of Weeks, which is also called Pentecost, in accordance to Deuteronomy 16:11.
- Participate in the Feast of Tabernacles, in accordance to Deuteronomy 16:14.
- The servant of a priest could eat of the set-apart food given to the priest, which would be the best food of the land of Israel, in accordance to Leviticus 22:11.
- Freed after a certain time of service. Hebrew servants were freed after 6 years of service. Foreign servants, as well as every single servant in Israel, were all freed at the Yovel year, which was every 50 years. So if an entire family was in servitude, they were all freed together. The maximum amount of time a foreign servant would serve would therefore be 50 years, or less, depending on when the servant was purchased and began to serve in relation to the next Yovel year. And if the Yovel year occurred in less years than the 6 year time of service for Hebrew servants, they were still released regardless, for the Yovel year came with the command to “proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants of the land”.
- Freed with generous livelihood given to them by their master when their time of service was completed, in accordance to Deuteronomy 15:14. The masters were commanded to given them a flock, which gave the owner wool for clothing, and meat and milk for food and drink. And they were to be given a threshing floor, which gave the owner the ability to produce flour for bread, which was food. And they were to be given presses, which gave the owner the ability to produce and store wine and oil. These were all essentials for livelihood, which gave the servants the ability to be self sustaining after they were freed.
- If a Hebrew servant was released on the Yovel year, then he could return to his portion of land, which was his “inheritance”, for every Hebrew man and woman was given a portion of land, and if a Hebrew person lost his or her portion of land by selling it, then it was returned to that person on the Yovel year.
- If freed at the 7th year or Yovel year, they are set free without payment, meaning no one had to pay to purchase them to set them free.
- If a Hebrew servant sold himself because of poverty, he was given a right of purchase, to either be purchased by family to be set free, or to purchase himself to set himself free. He was treated as a hired worker, so eventually with his wages he could acquire the money to purchase his own freedom. A female Hebrew servant that was sold by her father was also given a right of purchase to be set free if she becomes displeasing to her new master.
but if a priest buys a soul with money, he may eat of it, and anyone born in his house may eat of his food.Leviticus 22:11
If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything.Exodus 21:2
If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, a threshing floor, and and a press. As Yehovah your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and Yehovah your God purchased you; therefore I command you this today.Deuteronomy 15:12-15
It shall not seem hard to you when you let him go free from you, for double are the wages of a hired worker that would serve you six years. So Yehovah your God will bless you in all that you do.Deuteronomy 15:18
And you shall set apart the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a yovel for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.Leviticus 25:10
Protections Given to the Servants
- If a servant was injured by his master, causing the servant to lose an eye, or lose a tooth, then the servant must be freed, in accordance to Exodus 21:26. This also includes any wound inflicted to him by the master, for it is also written in Exodus 21:24-25, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe”. Just as eye for eye and even hand for hand would merit the freedom of a servant, so in likewise manner wound for wound and stripe for stripe would also merit his freedom.
- If a servant runs away from his master because of mistreatment, then he is to be sheltered and not returned to his master, in accordance to Deuteronomy 23:15.
But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. “When a man strikes the eye of his servant, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the servant go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his servant, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.Exodus 21:24-27
You shall not give up to his master a servant who has escaped from his master to you. He shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place that he shall choose within one of your towns, wherever it suits him. You shall not oppress him.Deuteronomy 23:15-16
Possible Reasons Someone Would Become a Servant
- Perhaps because of stealing, so if a thief couldn’t pay back up to 7 times the value of what he stole, then the thief would therefore be sold to a master as a servant, and the money of that sale would go to the person that was robbed as a form of restitution. Everything the thief owned would also be sold and that money would go to the person that was robbed. And if the thief had wives or sons or daughters or servants, they too would be sold to a new master and the money of that sale would go to the person that was robbed. As much as necessary would be sold until full restitution was made to the person that was robbed, up to 7 times what was stolen. If the person that was robbed was a master, then the thief could also be sold to him as a servant, for nothing, as well as his entire family if he had one. The person that was robbed might get more back from the thief by making the thief work for him as a servant than the money he would get from the thief being sold to another master. This would be determined by judges in a town depending on each case and how much was stolen and how much the thief had to restitute and which decision would give full restitution to the person that was robbed. If the thief was Hebrew, then he would serve his new master 6 years. If the thief was a foreigner, then he would serve his new master until the next Yovel year, which could be up to 50 years.
- Perhaps because of debt, so if a borrower could not pay back what he owed then the borrower was sold as a servant as a form of repayment. If the borrower was sold to a master that was not the lender, then the money of that sale would go to the lender. Everything the borrower owned would also be sold and that money would go to the lender. And if the borrower had wives or sons or daughters or servants, they too would be sold to a new master and the money of that sale would go to the lender. As much as necessary would be sold until the debt was paid back. The borrower could also be sold to the lender as a servant, for nothing, as well as his entire family if he had one. The lender might get more back from the borrower by making the borrower work for him as a servant than the money he would get from the borrower being sold to another master. This would be determined by judges in a town depending on each case and how much was owed by the borrower and which decision would give back the lender everything he is owed. If the borrower was Hebrew, he would serve 6 years. If the borrower was a foreigner, he would serve until the next Yovel year, which could be up to 50 years.
- Perhaps because a person simply wanted to voluntarily become a servant to acquire flocks, a threshing floor, and a press, only after 6 years of service, which was the case for Hebrew servants. This may have been “entry level” work for a young Hebrew person to then begin acquiring possessions. This was also an opportunity to learn from a wealthy master and how he manages his house.
- Perhaps because a person was sold by their father, and one reason a father would do this is because he could no longer support his sons and daughters, so by selling them he would at least insure that they have food and habitation as servants going forward, while also covering his own needs with the money of that sale. Another reason a Hebrew father would do this is because he wanted his daughter to be provided for and possibly also end up married to the master he sold her to, which would then make her a concubine.
- Perhaps because of poverty, and a person had to involuntarily sell himself in order to at least be able to eat and have habitation by being a servant. If this was the reason a Hebrew man or woman sold himself to a master, then he had to be treated as a hired worker or foreign resident and had to be paid wages for his work. He would be freed not after 6 years of service, since he is getting paid wages, but would be freed at the Yovel year. A foreigner that sold himself to a master because of poverty did not have this same benefit as a Hebrew person did to be paid with wages if he sold himself because of poverty, a foreign servant had to work without wages until the Yovel year.
If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep… He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the stolen beast is found alive in his possession, whether it is an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.Exodus 22:1-4
People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry, but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house.Proverbs 6:30-31
When a man sells his daughter as a servant…Exodus 21:7
Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.Matthew 18:23-25
If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a servant: he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a foreign resident. He shall serve with you until the year of yovel. Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as servants. You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. As for your male and female servants whom you may have: you may buy male and female servants from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the foreigners who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your possession. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as an aeonial possession. You may make servants of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.Leviticus 25:39-46
Factors That Determined the Price of a Servant
- The price of a servant was around 30 shekels of silver, maybe more, maybe less, according to Exodus 21:32 and Hosea 3:2.
- How many years were left until they had to be freed. The more years were left until they had to be freed the more expensive they were. If the servant only had 1 or few years left of service, then it was unlikely that anyone would buy the servant because it would cost the master more to free the servant with a flock and threshing floor and presses than the work he would get out of the servant. And because of this as a Yovel year was approaching, the servant market was very slow. However, after the Day of Atonement of the Yovel year was over, the servant market likely became very high, because the sooner new servants are acquired by a master the longer they will serve until the next Yovel year 50 years later from the last Yovel year.
- The skills of the servant. The more skills the servant had the more expensive they were.
- How attractive the servant was. The more attractive the more expensive they were, especially female servants, who could potentially become a wife to the master, or be given to one of his sons as a wife, or be given to one of his servants as a wife.
- If the servant was a Hebrew or a foreigner. A foreign servant might be more expensive than a Hebrew servant, because their time of service is longer than a Hebrew servant. However, a very attractive female Hebrew servant could be more expensive than any foreign servant, because she was a potential wife to the master, and was also Hebrew having the same traditions as the master. It all varied, depending on all the combined qualities of a servant.
- The age of the servant. The younger the servant the more expensive they were.
- If a Hebrew servant was sold to a foreigner he retained the right to be purchased to be freed at all times during his service. He could even purchase himself. His purchase price depended on how many years were left until the Yovel year. If 30 years were left when he was bought and he was sold for 30 shekels of silver and he worked 5 years, then 25 shekels of silver would be his purchase price. If another 5 years passed, then 20 shekels of silver would be his purchase price. And just as a Hebrew servant that sold himself because of poverty to a Hebrew master had to be treated as a hired worker and be paid wages, so in likewise manner he had to be paid wages if he sold himself to a foreigner. And that is why in this case he was not freed at his 7th year but in the year of Yovel. And using the wages he earned is how he could purchase his own freedom eventually.
If a foreigner or foreign resident with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the foreigner’s family, then after he is sold he may be purchased. One of his brothers may purchase him, or his uncle or his cousin may purchase him, or a close relative from his family may purchase him. Or if he grows rich he may purchase himself. And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he sold himself to him unto the year of jubilee; and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years; and according to the time of a hired worker shall he be with him. If there be yet many years, according unto them he shall give back the price of his purchase out of the money that he was bought for. And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubilee, then he shall reckon with him; according unto his years shall he give back the price of his purchase. He shall treat him as a worker hired year by year. He shall not rule ruthlessly over him in your sight. And if he is not purchased by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of yovel. For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am Yehovah your God.Leviticus 25:47-55
If the ox gores a servant, male or female, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.Exodus 21:32
So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.Hosea 3:2
Laws for Male Hebrew Servants
- Can only serve 6 years, and must be set free on the 7th year. His 6 year time of service is not related to Shabbath years of the Torah, for the Shabbath years are related to the release of debts, not the proclamation of liberty to servants, which is given either in the 7th year of a Hebrew servant, or in the Yovel year to all servants, whether Hebrew or foreign.
- Just as the female Hebrew servant cannot be sold to a foreigner in Exodus 21:8, so in likewise manner he cannot be sold to a foreigner, because a foreigner would not treat him in the same way as the Torah commands, and might keep him as a slave for life.
- If he is bought single then he is set free single.
- If he is bought with a wife then he is set free with his wife.
- If he was given a foreign wife by his master, then he may leave without his wife and children at his 7th year, or he may stay with his master and wife and children and and continue to serve his master until the Yovel year, which is when they would all be set free together. If the servant chose to leave, this did not necessarily also imply a divorce between him and his wife. Perhaps there were only a few years left until the Yovel year, and he wanted to organize himself while being free to prepare for the freedom of his family a few years later, because once his family was freed, it was now his responsibility to provide for them and not the responsibility of the master anymore.
- If he chooses to stay with his master and wife and children, then the master must pierce his ear with an awl, to signify that the Hebrew servant is willfully choosing to serve his master longer than his 7th year to for the sake of his wife and children. A male Hebrew servant with a pierced ear is a servant that is voluntarily serving a master more time than his 6 years until the Yovel year.
- He would only be given a female foreign servant as a wife, not a female Hebrew servant, for a foreign female servant is bound to a master until the Yovel year, which could be at most 50 years of her life, which is one way a master could entice a male Hebrew servant to serve him longer, to remain with his foreign wife and children. It would be illogical for a master to give a male Hebrew servant a female Hebrew servant, because both would eventually be freed individually only after 6 years of service, and would also be having children at the expense of the master, which would be children that would never grow old enough to serve the master, because they too would have to be released with the parents, so it would therefore be a useless and illogical arrangement for the master to give a male Hebrew servant a female Hebrew servant as a wife.
- The master could also give one of his daughters as a wife to him. This would be a good alternative if the master was unable to give his daughter as a wife to another master or the son of another master. At his 7th year he would simply be freed with sufficient sustenance given to him by his master to then support her and his children.
- The male Hebrew servant is set free without payment according to Exodus 21:2, at the 7th year of service, or Yovel year, whichever came sooner, meaning no one had to pay to purchase him to set him free.
- The master could not free the male Hebrew servant empty handed, but had to give him a flocks a threshing floor for wheat, and a press for wine and oil.
- If he sold himself to a master because of poverty, then he had a right to be purchased to be freed, or the right to purchase himself. He also had to be treated like a hired worker and be paid wages. Because of this he was therefore not set free at his 7th year, but in the year of Yovel, because even though he is a servant, he is getting paid wages.
When you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his aeonial servant.Exodus 21:4-6
…He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people…Exodus 21:8
Laws for Female Hebrew Servants
- Can only serve 6 years, and must be set free on the 7th year. Her 6 year time of service is not related to Shabbath years of the Torah, for the Shabbath years are related to the release of debts, not the proclamation of liberty to servants, which is given either in the 7th year of a Hebrew servant, or in the Yovel year to all servants, whether Hebrew or foreign.
- If a master purchased a female Hebrew servant, she was not automatically his wife nor his “sex slave” as some people today erroneously assume. That is why Hagar, who was a female servant in the house of Abraham was later on separately given to Abraham as a wife, in Genesis 16:3, in which case then Hagar became his concubine. A master could choose to marry his female Hebrew servant after purchasing her, which is what was expected in that time, and was also logical, because a female servant under the authority of a master is a woman that can become a wife that can give sons and daughters to the master, which would therefore increase his authority and influence. But obviously the master had to desire her and want to make her his wife. And once she became married to her master then she would then become his concubine, which was a “lesser” wife because she is also a servant. She would stop being a servant at her 7th year of service, or Yovel year, whichever came sooner, and she would remain the master’s full wife after her time of service was completed.
- If she was specifically sold to the master by her father and she becomes “displeasing” to her master after he purchased her as mentioned in Exodus 21:7-8, meaning the master decided he not want to marry her for some reason, then the master was obligated to let her be purchased to be set free, which could be done by someone in her own family. This was unlike the male Hebrew servants who did not sell themselves because of poverty, who the master was not obligated to sell and had to serve their master for 6 full years, and then they are set free, which is one reason the female Hebrew servants are not freed like the male Hebrew servants. And by not marrying her as expected, then he was “breaking faith” with her, which is why the master had no right to sell her to any foreigner, but had to let her be purchased to be set free.
- She cannot be sold to any foreigner, for a foreigner would not treat her according to what the Torah commands, which is what protects her, and might keep her as a slave for life. If her family didn’t purchase her to set her free, then she could be sold to a new Hebrew master. She was to serve her new master 6 years minus however many years she served the first master. The price of the servant would have to be reduced to reflect this. Perhaps the new master might want to marry her, or give her to one of his sons as a wife, otherwise she would just be set free in her 7th year of service.
- If the master himself did not marry her and no one purchased her, then he may give her to his son, as a concubine and not only as a servant, which is why the master must then “treat her as a daughter”, in accordance to Exodus 21:9. If the son took a second wife, he was not permitted to remove her food, clothing, and habitation, otherwise she was no longer bound to him and could leave him and be set free without any payment to be set free, in accordance to Exodus 21:9.
- If the master married the female Hebrew servant, then he can no longer let her be purchased to be set free, for she is his wife, and he can no longer give her to his son as a wife, because that would be a sin punishable by death, because that would be a son having sex with his father’s wife, regardless of whether she is a concubine or not.
- If the master did not marry her, and no one purchased her, and the master did not give her to any of his sons as a wife, then the master might give her to a male foreign servant as a wife. She may leave without her husband and children at her 7th year, or she may stay with her master and husband and children and continue to serve her master until the Yovel year, which is when they would all be set free together. If the servant chose to leave, this did not necessarily also implicate a divorce between her and her husband.
- If she chooses to stay with her master and husband and children, then the master must pierce her ear with an awl, to signify that the Hebrew servant is willfully choosing to serve her master longer than her 7th year to for the sake of her husband and children. A female Hebrew servant with a pierced ear is a servant that is serving a master until the Yovel year.
- She is set free without payment at her 7th year of service, or Yovel year, whichever came sooner, meaning no one had to pay to purchase her to set her free.
- When the time came to free her the master could not let her go empty handed, but had to give her a flock, a threshing floor for wheat, and presses for wine and oil.
- If she sold himself to a master because of poverty, then she had a right to be purchased to be freed, or the right to purchase herself. She also had to be treated like a hired worker and be paid wages. Because of this she was therefore not set free at her 7th year, but in the year of Yovel, because even though she is a servant, she is getting paid wages.
When a man sells his daughter as a servant, she shall not go out as the male servants do. If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be purchased. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. And if he chooses her for his son, he must deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her habitation. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.Exodus 21:7-11
You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness.Leviticus 18:8
But if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he is well-off with you, then you shall take an awl, and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your aeonial servant. And to your female servant you shall do the same.Deuteronomy 15:16-17
Laws for Male and Female Foreign Servants
- Must serve up until the Yovel year, which can be up to 50 years of their life, depending on when they were purchased and began to serve in relation to the next Yovel year.
- Just as the Hebrew servants are set free without payment, so are the foreign servants set free without payment at the Yovel year.
- Just as the master could not free the Hebrew servant empty handed, so in likewise manner the master cannot free the foreign servant empty handed, but had to give them flocks, a threshing floor for wheat, and presses for wine and oil, because this will be the only way they will continue receiving sustenance after they are done serving. If the servant served the master 50 years, then by the time his time of service is completed he will be much older and not as strong compared to when he was younger, so the servant will definitely need this sustenance, more so than the Hebrew servant that only served 6 years.
- Just as the Hebrew servants could not be sold to foreigners, so in likewise manner a foreign servant that is purchased by a Hebrew master cannot be sold to foreigners, because a foreigner might keep him a slave for life, whereas with a Hebrew master the servant has an opportunity to be freed by the next Yovel year.
- If a male foreign servant was given a female foreign servant as a wife by his master, then he and his wife and children are all set free together in the next Yovel year.
- As the children grow up of the male foreign servant and the wife given to him by the master, the children also become servants to the master until the next Yovel year, when they are all freed together.
- A male foreign servant could also be given a female Hebrew servant as a wife, and a female foreign servant could be given to a male Hebrew servant as a wife.
- A female foreign servant could also be given to one of the master’s son as a wife, or the master himself may choose to marry her. If the master or one of his sons marries her, then she would become his concubine, and she would stop being a servant at the next Yovel year, and then she would simply remain his full wife.
- A male foreign servant would not be given one of the master’s daughters as a wife, because it would be better to give him a wife that is also a servant since it would bring forth children that would also become servants of the master, so this was the most logical arrangement to make.