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You shall not give back to his master the slave who has escaped from his master to you. He may dwell with you in your midst, in the place which he chooses within one of your gates, where it seems best to him; you shall not oppress him. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16)

According to the code of Hammurabi, anyone caught sheltering a fugitive slave was to be put to death. In ancient Greece and Rome, runaway slaves who were captured were then branded with hot irons. In some situations, the captive slave was executed by crucifixion or thrown into a pit filled with wild beasts. In 19th century America, runaway slaves were often hunted with dogs and beaten when captured. The point is, many cultures considered slaves to be their personal property and to be handled in any way they saw fit. This was not the case in Israel; not only was this slave regarded as free, he had rights and was to be protected and cared for until he could take care of himself.

It seems obvious that this particular instruction was given in regard to those who escaped masters who had been mistreating them in some way. I say that because the Bible has much to say about how one’s servants were to be treated. It also has much to say about returning recovered property to its rightful owner. Considering that the runaway slave was not to be returned to their master, this instruction argues, in the strongest of terms, that the Creator does not regard any human as being another human’s property. In short, God hates tyranny and oppression.

Though He hates it does not mean it doesn’t exist because, as we know, it continues to this very day in some form or fashion. On the other hand, those who are oppressed give you and I an opportunity to demonstrate the heart of our Father in Heaven. Rather than oppressing those who come to us, we are to care for them because, as it is written, God “gives justice to the oppressed” and will be their “refuge in times of trouble” (Job 36:6, Psalm 9:9). As is almost always the case, what God does He does through His people — you and me. So when it comes to dealing with those who have been mistreated and oppressed, let us make sure to be His instruments of solace, comfort and healing.

Blessings and Shalom,  




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