Does the Bible support slavery?

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear and with sincerity of heart just as you would obey Christ.

Ephesians 6:5

People point to this verse to make the claim that God allows harsh slavery where people are sold like animals. However the word slave can also be translated servant or bondservant. In fact the King James as well as the Geneva Bibles more correctly translate this word as servant.

In ancient times if you would go into debt or for some reason could not make enough money to support yourself you would sell yourself as a bondservant to someone to pay off a debt or so you could feed yourself and your family. Read on about how God wants the servants to conduct themselves and how the masters should treat the servant, reminding them that in God’s sight they are equal.

Serve wholeheartedly as if you were serving the Lord, not men because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

Ephesians 6:7-9

In the Old Testament the first recorded account of harsh slavery was when Egypt enslaved the people of Israel. And God judged them accordingly, and punished them with ten plagues. Read what God includes in the Law of Moses.

Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death.

Exodus 21:16

The law of Moses makes strict guidelines… well, read for yourself.

If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave. He is to be treated as a hired worker or a temporary resident among you; he is to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. Leviticus 25:39-40

The Year of Jubilee is every seven years when all debt is erased and bondservants are freed.