Deuteronomy 15:12 (CSB)
12 “If your fellow Hebrew, a man or woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, you must set him free in the seventh year.
Evidently, voluntary slavery was practiced in ancient Israel during times of extreme hardship. If one were destitute, they would indenture themselves to another until they were able to pay off their debt, or when six years were up.
When the six year term was up, not only was the slave free again, but the one whom he was indentured to was to send him off with provisions and supplies to get him started in his new freedom. And this was to be a willing giving, not begrudgingly. In fact, Deut. 15:14 says to “give generously.” It was to be seen not as a “hardship” when an indentured servant was set free, because the benefactor would have received much more from the slave than had he employed hired hands.
But, on the occasion that the slave desires to remain indentured, they were to be marked via a piercing. It seems foreign to us to think of a situation where one would chose this, but the circumstances in ancient Israel were obviously different than what we envision with the word “slave”. Apparently there was a familial band at times, as Deut. 15:16 uses the term “love” when describing the possible relationship between slave and benefactor.
The theme here is that the Israelites themselves were slaves, in Egypt, but were set free by God. And when they left Egypt, they were sent with generous supplies to start their new lives. So who should we be striving to be like: Pharaoh who desired to keep the Israelites enslaved, or God who freed His people, desiring to bless them?
Lord, thank You for freeing us from our chains, from our slavery to sin. Help me to free others that may be in my debt, and not to be like Pharaoh, but like You. I pray for the freedom of all Your children, that they may come to know You, the source of life. Amen.