Concerning Philistia: Slave Trade

Amos 1:6-8

Word slave/servant prompts multiple thoughts and images. Different connotations even between two words, servant a lesser word than slave. Number of words required to express full range of meaning in Scripture, both OT and NT. Then additional dimension of physical vs. spiritual slavery – can they legitimately be separated? Distinguished maybe, not necessarily separated physically in all circumstances… often significant overlap between.

Our focus usually on experience of slaves, mostly negative aspects of slavery. One of powerful scenes in Amazing Grace – expensive barge filled with upper-crust Parliamentarians and wives, Thames River, enjoying fine cuisine. Comes alongside and downwind from Madagascar, slave ship, 400 of 600 slaves died en route. Can imagine reaction to sight and smell by London’s finest.

Emphasis in our text goes behind that scene to underlying industry, what Wilberforce was attempting to address. As awful as conditions / treatment of slaves was, something even more despicable at work. In reality, actions on part of some that was especially revolting to God – the sin of human trafficking. For that, would be consequences on Philistia. Obviously did not bring end to that particular sin, persists today. God’s word tells us why is such a problem, what antidote is.

A. particular, egregious sin – human trafficking v.6b

like previous charge against Damascus, this one not a single occurrence – is pattern of behavior displeasing to God

is rare for God to bring judgment after only one misdeed: Nadab & Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2); Uzzah (2 Sam. 6:6-7); Ananias & Sapphira (Acts. 5:1ff); Herod (Acts 12:21-23)

more typical for God to be lonsuffering enough people wonder if he will act at all – e.g., Hab. 1:2 “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?”

do have promise of God, however – Isa. 59:1 “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear.”

also like Syrians, Philistines were God’s particular instrument of discipline against Israel for their sinful behavior

problem was not that Philistines went to war, sent raiding parties into Israel – that was God’s purpose, what he expected them to do

also expected them to behave in civilized way, following reasonable rules of engagement, properly distinguishing between army and civilian noncombatants

not a surprise to have POW’s, soldiers take soldiers captive to reduce opposing armies capabilities and degree of threat

POW’s sent far from front lines, impressed into some form of slavery – cheap labor to replace Philistines who had gone to war

civilians, not POW’s, sold into slavery for profit

would have been acceptable to treat as Assyrians, Babylonians did – deport civilians, relocate so could no longer pose threat

instead, took whole towns, sold inhabitants as slaves so as to profit – by the sale, by acquiring their possessions and territory – read2 Chr. 21:16-17 (850); 28:18 (730)

Philistines already prosperous, did not need revenue from sale of slaves or their possessions – did so out of greed and hatred

why hatred? look who they sold them to… ultimately the Edomites, even though Tyre may have acted as middle-man

made especially painful because were sold to Edomites

descendants of Esau, had been off and on enemies of Israelites since Jacob and Esau; territory straddled route from Sinai to Canaan – refused passage to Hebrew children

were really “brothers” but acted as hostile enemies, something everyone knew – Philistines picked Edom as new slave owners to make a point… who is superior

probably expected Edomites would be especially harsh slave-masters, in sense continuing hostilities Philistines started

B. consequences v.7-8

complete destruction as nation – even remnant will perish

“Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron were the five key Philistine cities (Josh. 13:3), and Amos denounced all of them for trading in human lives.” Wiersbe

language here is comprehensive – defenses destroyed, open to invasion by outsiders; leaders removed, unable to organize defense; not only defenders, all inhabitants be thoroughly subdued… even remnant who might escape

iow, would be so completely defeated would lose their distinct identity as a people

fulfilled in repeated assaults on Gaza – by Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks; eventually assimilated into Canaanite culture

Egyptian attack prophesied by Jeremiah – readJer. 47:1-5

C. today

this kind of circumstance not a problem, right? don’t go to war, make everyone POW’s, sell to nearest neighbors for profit?

well, yes, is happening to some extent in ISIS-controlled areas – kill the men, sell the women to highest bidder

applies to circumstances other than war or military-type activities – problem was not scale, not solely that involved civilians

sin in view was selling one human being to another, made worse by profit and cruelty motives

flagrant ways: migrant workers, drug mules, sex traffic

may be in country illegally, paid illegally low wages, required to live in provided housing, will be abandoned if they squeal

required to traffic in drugs under threat of personal harm or to family members, perhaps as part of gang activity

“Many of the women being trafficked are given daily earning quotas by their pimps when they are being trafficked — sometimes as high as $800 per night, she said. Women who don’t make their quota are often punished, such as by being beaten, starved and deprived of sleep. People can only sell so many drugs before they run out. But there are no limits on the number of times they can sell a person for sex. “People are using women over and over and over, so the profit continues,” she said.

“There are an estimated 200 to 300 cases of sex trafficking in Maine per year — out of 14,500 to 17,500 people being trafficked throughout the country.” BDN

subtle ways: forced/arranged marriage, misdiagnosis for profit (disorders/diseases), college debt

offspring forced into arranged marriage on basis of prestige, bride-price offered, future benefits promised to parent

kickbacks and other perks for those who promote use of particular prescription med – prescribing use when not truly justified, resulting in dependence/slavery

prescribe meds that are highly addictive when alternatives exist, leading to further enslavement to street drugs

student finance depts that strongly encourage pursuit of college degree based on loans – mortgaging future for something now

selling individual into financial slavery, tens of 1000’s of $’s, and no way out other than payoff – bankruptcy no relief

D. why a problem

at least in our culture, most people squirm a little when concept of selling people / slavery discussed in plain terms; not so much when disguised – arranged marriage, escort service, etc.

must be reason for discomfort, related to God’s law that remains in some form in everyone’s conscience

not especially difficult to acknowledge problem with seller, more difficult with regard to buyer – God has huge problem with both

“The Mosaic law required the death penalty for precisely this kind of kidnapping and selling into slavery (Exod 21:16), and it was surely recognized internationally as a cruelty”

“Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” ESV

notice – death penalty for both seller and buyer – both contribute to enslavement, both pervert God’s order and design

violation of 8th command – Deut. 24:7, also design of Creation – Gen. 1:26-27; 9:6-7

“If a man is found kidnapping/stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and mistreats him or sells him, then that kidnapper/thief shall die; and you shall put away the evil from among you.”

one additional interesting case: thief is stoned – Achan, stole “some of the devoted things” – things designated strictly for God’s use (Josh. 7:11)

buying/selling shows total disregard for image of God; is equivalent to stealing from God what should be devoted to his use

made much more conscionable by promotion of evolution

those who have moderately consistent position reject imago Dei, view humans somewhere on continuum starting with pond scum, maybe at top… maybe not

if some on continuum are commodities (cows, pigs, chickens, e.g.), why not humans – slavery not a consideration

contrary to God’s design for mankind: freedom (Gen. 2:16) with boundaries (Gen. 2:17)

free to eat of every tree… except; free to worship God… but no other; free to subdue and rule over all creation except… in unjust way over brothers

sin messed that all up but… did not enlarge boundaries; in fact, added some constraints to minimize effects of sin – no longer able to experience all freedom God designed

and intended results of Christ’s ministry and work (Luke 4:17-19; John 8:31-36; Rom. 8:2, 2 Cor. 3:17, Gal. 5:1)

Jesus anointed/sent to “proclaim liberty to the captives, …set at liberty those who are oppressed”; to set his people free from slavery to sin; to set us free from law of sin and death

E. the antidote

physical/emotional/temporal bondage displeasing to God – act to release slaves, opportunity for healing, consequences for perps

just like God’s law, must address all parties involved – sellers, buyers, and ones enslaved; remember sellers/buyers enslaved, too

should encourage civil authority to promote justice within scope of operation granted by God – not necessarily death penalty, but should be taken seriously

bondage in sin more of problem – speak truth, be sure to include Gospel

this part belongs to church, not state – freedom from slavery to sin independent of physical circumstances

this slavery is at root of problem of buyers/sellers – because they are enslaved to sin, seek to satisfy sinful desires through unjust treatment of others and profit from it

headline from BDN – “It’s one thing for a sex trafficking victim to escape. It’s another to heal.” – is absolutely correct

only through what Gospel offers – freedom and forgiveness – can “victims” begin healing process

Wisdom and discernment to see slavery in all its forms available on request from our good God. We should be alert to slavery, especially bondage in sin, ready to offer message of hope to any who will listen. And… should be ready to get involved in practical ways as God supplies opportunity and resources.


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