Women Slaves in the Bible
Women slaves in the Hebrew tribes played an important role in their master’s/mistress’s household, and in the early period, as in the case of Hagar, even bore children to the master. He arranged their marriages at his discretion, the sole proviso being that if a man bought a female slave as a wife for himself or his son, he could not change his mind and sell her to another family, but had to honor his obligations to her.
Unlike Exodus, the rules concerning slavery in Deuteronomy do not make a distinction between male and female in the treatment of slaves. Women were to be freed in the seventh year just like men (Deuteronomy 15:12).
The later priestly law of Leviticus 25 makes no reference to slave-concubines and they appear to be unknown by the time of Jeremiah. Nehemiah (5:5) speaks of the sexual violation of Jewish girls by their masters but does not mention their being taken as concubines.
The city-kingdoms of Mesopotamia went through cycles of glory and defeat. Sometimes they were led by able rulers who lorded it over large tracts of territory, but at other times their lands were conquered by invaders. One such city was Ur, the home city of Sarah and Abraham. In about 1650BC a Dark Age began in Mesopotamia. The great cities were destroyed and society fragmented into small, frightened groups.
In the period of confusion and destruction that followed, many people fled. They abandoned their homes and searched for a more secure place, or simply tried to escape the violence. One such group was led by Terah, father of Sarah and Abraham. He and his large group of family and servants set out looking for a new home, forming a tribal group who were, without knowing it, ancestors of the Hebrews.
At first these migrants traveled as a small, mobile clan following its flocks, but eventually they arrived at territory already occupied by people called Canaanites, a relatively sophisticated group who lived in city-states with an economy based on agriculture and trade. The clan, now led by Sarah and Abraham, camped at various cities of Canaan, settling temporarily in one place then moving on.
It was during this period that the tribes developed their unique ethos and began to see themselves as separate from the tribes and kingdoms that surrounded them. Their main identifying difference was worship of Yahweh, a spirit-god who combined the power of all the gods of other tribes but had a special relationship with the Hebrew people. This relationship was embodied in the concept of the covenant, a mutual promise of protection and allegiance made between Yahweh and themselves.
Women’s Lives in this Era
Bible Top Ten: Slavery
Slaves in the Bible, with a case study of Hagar
Story of Potiphar’s Wife
What were families like in ancient Israel?
How were they different?
Movies often have a journey/salvation theme, such as ‘Ice Age’. Simple movies can have profound messages.