Does the Bible really say those evil things?
Inquisitive commenter John makes a request:
Please post the verses in the New Testament that command us to “take slaves, burn witches, murder children, perform executions for imagined crimes, and treat women as cattle.”
Sure! That awful stuff is part and parcel of the Bible, and I'm more than happy to preach straight from it.
I'm not going to play favorites with this Testament vs that Testamant, though; it's all the Divine Word of the Almighty, amiright? I'm good with all of the Good Book! (As you might expect, though, it's the Old Testament that really delivers on the slavery and murder and other divinely-commanded horrors. The New Testament tones down the evil, even if it carries forward some of the OT's moral fumbles and even makes up a few of its own.)
So. Here's a quick guide to particular nasties as requested:
God condones and even commands slavery
Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT: However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.
It's official: You can buy, sell, and own humans as property! Children too!
But wait – what's this about "foreigners"? Not everyone is the import-buyer type. Perhaps you'd prefer a genuine, home-grown Chosen People slave? Well, just hurry on down to Crazy Yahweh's, 'cause he's running a blow-out special on domestic models, too:
Exodus 21:2-6 NLT: If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.' If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever.
Yikes! That seventh-year release would seem to make Hebrew slaves a poor investment! But never fear, slave-owners. Thanks to the above loophole from the Divine Source of All Mercy and Goodness, you can keep your Hebrew slaves for life too!
But. Say you're a real capitalist, wanting to create the means of production on your plantation. Can you make slaves – that is, can you breed children to serve as slaves? You betcha, says God!
Exodus 21:7-11 NLT: When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.
I can haz money from selling my daughters as sex slaves? Awesomez!
Truly, the preachers were right: With God, all things are possible!
Well, not all things. You can't, say, murder your slaves. Because that'd be immo... Wait, what? What's that, Yahweh?
Exodus 21:20-21 NAB: When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.
Got it! God just wants to be clear on this point: Your slaves are genuinely your property. You can even kill them, consequence-free!
Next the New Testament chimes in:
Ephesians 6:5 NLT: Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.
1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT: Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them.
In Jesus' world, slavery is not something to be prohibited or even criticized. It's the way things are done, and who is the mere Son of Almighty God, the Holy of Holies, to suggest that things should be any different? Office memo from the Messiah: Slaves, your Lord and Savior would really appreciate it if you'd just get with the program and act like good slaves. ("Human rights." Pffft.)
But, to make sure we address the question that was asked, let's quibble a detail: Yes, it's clear that God and Jesus condone slavery with the same ease with which you and I condone extra sour cream on a Burrito Supreme. Still, does God ever actually command slavery? The answer is... Hell yeah! Here's a good instance:
Deuteronomy 20:10-15 NIV: When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.
Yep, it's officially a commandment: When you attack a city, enslave everyone. (Unless they don't want to be slaves, in which case you can just murder the men and take the women and children as "plunder" anyway. It's all good, says God!)
God commands the execution of witches
This one is well known:
Exodus 22:17 NAB: You should not let a sorceress live.
Murder, He commanded. Pretty clear on that one!
But, to address the question in fiddly detail: While God would would be pleased if you round out your Thursday to-do list with "Murder a witch", it's true that He doesn't explicitly specify "burn" as the means of execution. The dramatic business of burning women alive appears to have been a later Christian improvisation. So, technically, when we murder a women we've somehow defined as "sorceress", we're free to choose a mode of murder to match our mood. (Hey, the theologians were right! God does allow us free will!)
One caution, though. While you're about your killing people for God, be careful not to let any witches off the hook because they slyly go by another trade name:
Leviticus 20:27 NAB: A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death.
Dang right, they have no one but themselves to blame: Isn't it just professional negligence when a "fortuneteller" doesn't foresee the arrival of the murder mob? (Which, of course, suggests that they're not real fortunetellers... which, in turns, means they shouldn't be murdered... which... Ack, it makes my head hurt! Just kill 'em all and let God sort the illogic out!)
(Do note the cool part of the above scripture, though: It's not just about women. We can murder men, too! Yay, equality!)
God commands the murder of children
Hoo boy. Where to begin? It's not easy to pick a point, The Old Testament is a non-stop, slay-o-rama murder-fest nonpareil, treating us to the sight of Yahweh and his band of Chosen People slaughtering men, women, children, infants, fetuses, and animals, book after book after book.
Here's the kind of family unity Yahweh dreams of: Dad, Mom, Junior, Sissy, and Baby, together as one – in the grave!
1 Samuel 15:2-3 NAB: This is what the Lord of hosts has to say: 'I will punish what Amalek did to Israel when he barred his way as he was coming up from Egypt. Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has under the ban. Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and asses.'
Ooh, sorry about the murder there, kids. Sucks, I know! But I'm sure you did something to deserve it.
Yahweh's such an enthusiast when it comes to child-butchery that I won't try recount all of his slayings on this page. There's a great cataloguing here of God's own kills and his contract kills. It's a list so long, it even has its own section to catalog His glorious snuffings of children's lives!
God commands executions for imaginary crimes
"Imaginary" crimes are those that hurt no one and nothing at all – save for, apparently, God's delicate feelings. Well-known examples include God's commandments to murder people for blasphemy, for worshipping other gods, and for working on the Sabbath. (One dude – at least one – was actually murdered by divine commandment for picking up sticks! Read Numbers 15: 32-36, and praise the Lord for cracking down on the barbaric criminality of untimely yard work! It's good to see God bring down the hammer on such iniquity, rather than waste His precious "thou shalt nots" on trivialities like the ownership of human beings!)
Once again, I'll pass on a detailed recounting; God's murder diary in this category is huge, and there's no need to repeat what's so well catalogued elsewhere. Head here and read up on all the crazy, harmless things for which Yahweh demands that his followers murder others.
Yahweh, the original lady-killer
Whatever His guise – Yahweh, Allah, or generic ol' God – that guy upstairs sure has a problem with gender. Let's take a look:
Exodus 20:17 KJV: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
Women? Just another form of property, like an ox or ass. (We've already noted the lovely Exodus 21:7-11, allowing you to sell your daughters as slaves.)
Exodus keeps on spewing the Godly love:
Exodus 22:16-17 NLV: If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.
Again: A woman and her virginity are the property of her father. Where such things are taken, a monetary price is to be paid for said property. Other holy verses concur:
Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NIV: If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels[a] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
Rape a woman, pay some money. But don't pay it to the woman. You pay her father – you know, the property owner.
Well, that at least closes the sordid affair, and the victim can now get on with her life. Maybe she can even consider marrying someday, when she meets a caring, responsible, worthy man who loves her and...
Whoa, wait! Jumpin' Jehovah, did I misunderstand my Yahweh there. The raped woman is doing no such thing! God has decreed what happens after the violent crime: By holy command, the raped woman must marry her rapist. (Who, it should be noted, is not only a criminal, but a poor criminal. At least, he's 50 shekels poorer than he was. Hey, girl, you'd better get used to a rapist husband and thrift-store cookware!)
Any of this sound horribly unfair, ladies? Well, the New Testament would like to step in and say a few words: Shut up, broads. Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Timothy 2, and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 make clear where you're to stand: in submission below your husbands, with your mouths closed. Let the menfolk do the talkin', okay? Sheesh, chicks could get so uppity in the 1st century, acting like they're all not property or something. Good thing the Bible's here to clear up that mess!
There's a lot more in scripture about God's mistreatment of humans for the crime of being born with this genitalia instead of that genitalia. I do hope you'll read more at The Horrible Treatment of Women in the Bible.
So. To make sure we've addressed the original question: Does the Bible treat women as cattle? Answer: Yes, in that they're both property, to be bought, sold, used, and abused by men.
(Well, all right, it's not exactly the same. While God does condemn animal rape (i.e., bestiality), he doesn't condemn a raped cow to marrying the rapist. So, yeah, there is that difference.)
Are you following the Bible?
The message of scripture is clear: God commands that we take slaves, burn witches, murder children, perform executions for imagined crimes, and treat women as cattle.
All ye followers of God, do you do these things? If not, why not?