“If you purchase a Hebrew slave, he is to work six years; but in the seventh, he is to be given his freedom without having to pay anything.”-Exodus 21:1
There were two classes of slaves in ancient Hebrew society: Hebrew slaves and gentile slaves.
The rules outlined here in Exodus chapter 21 deal ONLY with Hebrew slaves.
Later on God will issue rules concerning how non-Hebrew gentile slaves are to be treated.
What we will find in these instructions is quite revolutionary.
If a gentile slave wished to give up his gentile tribal or national identity, he was allowed to do so.
In other words, he transformed from being a “gentile slave” to a “Hebrew slave”.
This act of changing loyalties did not set them entirely free but they did become Hebrew slaves.
They were equal in status and rights to a native-born Hebrew slave.
And they now had access to certain rights they would have been denied had they opted to remain a gentile slave.
Now get this.
If this naturalized now Hebrew slave eventually became free, he was to be considered a full-fledged Hebrew freeman.
His rights and status were to be equal to that of a native-born Hebrew!!!
This person who started out as the lowest of the low, a gentile slave, through proper obedience to God’s Law, could eventually reach the status of a full-fledged Hebrew.
The Lord makes it clear that any gentile who joins Israel and becomes an Israelite by his own choice is NOT to be considered a second-class citizen.
One final detail concerning verse Exodus 21:6 about what happens when a male slave gets his ear pierced.
Although this detail isn’t mentioned, the male slave was to have a ring inserted into his ear as an indication that he had voluntarily committed himself and his family to lifelong servitude to his earthly master.
In this case, the master over this slave family is NOT under obligation to free them after 6 years according to Hebrew law.
However, this also doesn’t mean the master has to keep a slave a slave.
Through his mercy, a master could free a slave whenever he wanted to.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Remember your former state: you Gentiles by birth
— called the Uncircumcised by those who,
merely because of an operation on their flesh,
are called the Circumcised
— at that time had no Messiah.
You were estranged from the national life of Isra’el.
You were foreigners to the covenants embodying God’s promise.
You were in this world without hope and without God.
But now, you who were once far off have been brought near
through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood.”
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile,
neither slave nor freeman,
neither male nor female;
for in union with the Messiah Yeshua,
you are all one.”
“The new self allows no room
for discriminating between Gentile and Jew,
circumcised and uncircumcised,
foreigner, savage, slave, free man;
on the contrary, in all,
the Messiah is everything.”