Patterns of slave status inheritance in Ancient Isreal, and more

I was reading a book on slavery, and it is a bit sketchy on specifics re slavery among Jews in Ancient Isreal. So, what were the patterns of slave status inheritance, both pre- and post-exodus? For example, what happened when a free or slave Jewish woman/man had a child with a Jewish or gentile slave, what would the status of the child be?

In drawn-out form: S = non-Jew slave, s = Jewish slave, F = free, w = woman, m = man

Sw + sm = ?
Sw + Fm = ?
Sm + sw = ?
Sm + Fw = ?
sw + sm = ?
sw + Fm = ?
sm + Sw = ?
sm + Fw = ?

Also, could a Jew marry a slave, either a Jewish slave or free? Did having a child with a slave or free person affect the status of the woman and/or man? Also, is there any archelogogical evidence re the answers to these questions?

The following is a summary.

A non-Jewish slave could not marry a Jewish woman (nor could a non-Jewish female slave marry a Jewish man). A non-Jewish slave could be married to another non-Jewish slave.

If two non-Jewish slaves had children, their children were considered the property of the owner.

A Jewish slave was more like an indentured servant than a slave. Thus he could marry a Jewish woman, divorce his wife, etc. He was not “owned” by his master. As such, his children by his wife were not slaves of his “owner.” Males served for six years, or until the Jubilee year (whichever came first). Females went out under the same conditions, but had one other: puberty. A Jewish woman could not become a “slave” upon reaching puberty.

A slaveowner, however, did have one particular right over his Jewish male slave. He could have a female non-Jewish slave “designated” for him. Any children that they had, following the general rule for determining Jewishness, were considered non-Jewish slaves.

Non-Jewish slaves, when freed, were considered full-fledged Jews. In addition, if they were mistreated to extent of loosing an eye, tooth or limb, they must be set free.

There is, to my knowledge, no archaelogical evidence to support this. This is based on standard Jewish law.

Zev Steinhardt

One matter that I realize I didn’t address was the issue of cohabitation.

In short, the same rules that apply to Jewishness apply here as well. Thusly, if a male slave (Jewish or non-Jewish) cohabits with a Jewish woman, her child is a Jew, free (you cannot be born into Jewish “slavery.)”.

If a male (non-Jewish slave or Jewish slave) cohabits with a female non-Jewish slave, then the child is considered a non-Jewish slave.

Zev Steinhardt

I know nothing about the rules for slaves, but shouldn’t the above read:

Jewish slaves, when freed, . . .

No. You read it correctly. When a non-Jewish slave is freed s/he, in effect, becomes a convert.

Zev Steinhardt

You know, on occasion, a son wouldn’t necessarily inherit the slaves automatically, but have to transfer his own earned wealth to his parents to ensure their comfort in old age.

A film has been made about the practice:

“Guys My Father Sold Me.”

I’ve been waiting 20 years to use that joke.

If they are slaves for life, and thus non-Jewish, shouldn’t that be “Goys My Father Sold Me”?

Maybe, but it ruins the joke.

Then again, so does explaining it.


[pseudo-Yiddish accent]
It would have killed you to have waited another twenty years? ;j
[/pseudo-Yiddish accent]
(I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help myself.)