The re-enslavement (Jer 34:11-34:11)

“But afterwards,

They turned around.

They took back

Both the male slaves

With the female slaves

That they had set free.

They brought them again

Into subjection

As slaves.”

However, this proclamation of liberty for the Hebrew slaves did not last long. These Hebrew slave owners took back their Hebrew slaves, both male and female, the very ones that they had set free. They once again brought them back into subjection as slaves. Perhaps they thought that the attack of the Babylonians was not going to be that bad.

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The tattoo of Yahweh (Isa 44:5-44:5)

“This one will say.

‘I am Yahweh’s.’

Another will be called

By the name of Jacob.

Another will write on his hand.

‘Yahweh’s.’

Another will adopt

The name of Israel.”

Some people will say that they belong to Yahweh. Thus they could be the servants of Yahweh. Others will call themselves with the name of Jacob, which is actually common today. Still others will tattoo on their hand the name of Yahweh, which of course had no vowels. Tattooing was a common ancient practice among slave owners, so that people knew who the slave belonged to. Finally some people would adopt the name of Israel which is still a common practice.

The treatment of slaves (Sir 33:24-33:29)

“Fodder is for a donkey.

A stick is for a donkey.

A burden is for a donkey.

Bread is for a slave.

Discipline is for a slave.

Work is for a slave.

Set your slave to work.

You will find rest.

If you leave his hands idle,

He will seek liberty.

A yoke will bow his neck.

A thong will bow his neck.

A wicked servant should have

Rack and tortures.

Put him to work.

Thus he may not be idle.

Idleness teaches much evil.

Set him to work,

As is fitting for him.

If he does not obey,

Make his fetters heavy.

Do not be overbearing

Toward anybody.

Do nothing unjust.”

Sirach accepts slavery as a fact of life, not to be disputed. This was a common biblical theme, so that the slave owners who cited the Bible could not be faulted. Slaves were slaves, so what? There was no sense of the idea of an equal fellow human being. In fact, it was clear that they should work hard as there was a comparison of a slave to a donkey. Just as the donkey was fed, whipped, and burdened, so too the slave should be fed with bread, disciplined, and worked hard. If your slave worked hard, you could get some restful idleness time for yourself. You should put a yoke and thong around your slave’s neck. If he was bad, you could beat him up. The slave should never be idle because that would lead to evil and his possible escape. If the slave did not obey, he should be punished. However, there was a limit to this brutality. You should not be overbearing or unjust. Of course, it was your decision to evaluate the situation.