I have been reading in Exodus the Israelites had their own servants or slaves. Exodus also talks about some people almost becoming (?) an Israelite (or Hebrew, not sure if same thing) by performing a circumcision. Exodus 12:44-45, 48-49.

Who were these servants? Or strangers as well as the kJv also mentions? Were they peoples of another region? How did they attain servants if they were slaves themselves at this point..after the Phaorah died in Exodus 1 that didn't know Joseph? Exodus 1:8. Didn't know slaves could have slaves?

I thought the new Phaorah would've stopped any slavery for the slaves if there was anything before that.

Sorry if question is unusual.


3 Answers 3


The Israelites and Jews had slaves throughout the biblical period, as various passages of the Bible attest. Exodus 12:44 talks of the purchase of slaves and the need for them to be circumcised, which implies that these were non-Hebrew slaves. As the question implies, it seems anachronistic that the fleeing slaves would have had slaves at the start of the Exodus or even at any time during the forty years of wandering, but Exodus 12:44-45 does not necessarily mean that the fleeing Israelites actually had slaves at this stage -- it can be read as a teaching or instruction for when the Israelites would soon have slaves.

More importantly, it is anachronistic that they could even bear to think of enslaving another human as they had so recently been enslaved. God would need to have been incredibly insensitive to bring the subject up at this early stage in the Exodus. However, modern scholarship states that this was not written during the putative Exodus nor for the people of the Exodus: it was written as instructions for the Jews of much later times. According to the Documentary Hypothesis, the Book of Exodus was written by at least three authors at various times during much of the first millennium BCE. If these laws were seen as having the imprimatur of Moses, who received them from God during the Exodus from Egypt, then they must be obeyed by all future generations.

  • Joshua mentions circumsition quite a bit. I was wondering if maybe the Gibeonites had to be circumcised then? Dec 26, 2016 at 11:01

I seem to remember commandments (not from the big ten, but among the hundreds of by-laws in Leviticus) forbidding enslavement of fellow Hebrews, but allowing enslavement of 'foreigners who sojourn among you.'

  • But Hebrews still became servants, who functioned just like slaves but they were freed after 7 years. Foreign slaves could easily be freed if they circumcised. Jul 9, 2020 at 4:15
  • Welcome to Christianity. Please see the Tour and Help as to the purpose and the functioning of the site. This is a poor quality answer for this site. Expectations would be for at least a referenced citation, rather than a vague unconfirmed memory.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 9, 2020 at 13:17

The Israelite Hebrews had slaves of other nations that followed them or they were call servants they had to be circumcised to become part of Israel they did become their servants

  • 1
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    Dec 16, 2019 at 18:52

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