VI. We infer that servants were voluntary, as there is no instance of an Israelitish master selling a servant. Abraham had thousands of servants, but seems never to have sold one. Isaac "grew until he became very great," and had "great store of servants." Jacob's youth was spent in the family of Laban, where he lived a servant twenty-one years. Afterward he had a large number of servants. Joseph sent for Jacob to come into Egypt, "thou and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks and thy herds, and all that thou hast." Jacob took his flocks and herds but no servants. Gen. xlv. 10; xlvii. 16. They doubtless, served under their own contracts, and when Jacob went into Egypt, they chose to stay in their own country. The government might sell thieves, if they had no property, until their services had made good the injury, and paid the legal fine. Ex. xxii. 3. But masters seem to have had no power to sell their servants. To give the master a right to sell his servant, would annihilate the servant's right of choice in his own disposal; but says the objector, "to give the master a right to buy a servant, equally annihilates the servant's right of choice." Answer. It is one thing to have a right to buy a man, and a different thing to have a right to buy him of another man.
Though servants were not bought of their masters, yet young females were bought of their fathers. But their purchase as servants was their betrothal as wives. Ex. xxi. 7, 8. "If a man sell his daughter to be a maid-servant, she shall not go out as the men-servants do. If she please not her master who hath betrothed her to himself, he shall let her be redeemed."
VII. We infer that the Hebrew servant was voluntary in commencing his service, because he was pre-eminently so in continuing it. If, at the year of release, it was the servant's choice to remain with his master, the law required his ear to be bored by the judges of the land, thus making it impossible for him to be held against his will.
- There is no evidence that masters had the power to dispose of even the services of their servants, as men hire out their laborers whom they employ by the year; but whether they had or not, affects not the argument.
- The comment of Maimonides on this passage is as follows: "A Hebrew handmaid might not be sold but to one who laid himself under obligations, to espouse her to himself or to his son, when she was fit to be betrothed."—Maimonides—Hilcoth—Obedim, Ch. IV. Sec. XI. Jarchi, on the same passage, says, "He is bound to espouse her and take her to be his wife, for the money of her purchase is the money of her espousal."