Dear Kevin Rudd, A Brief Jewish History on Slavery

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Call me old-fashioned but I do expect my prime minister to be educated about the most important book in the world which forms the foundation of our Australian nation and Western civilization. At the very least I expect a leader who will represent us on world stage to know history better than he does.

On 2 Sep 2013, our Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd mocked God, the Bible, and my friend Pastor Matt Prater on TV, “Well, mate, if I was going to have that view [that marriage is between a man and woman], the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition.” The crowd applauded. A Twitter user said “that response by Rudd to the pastor has to be the answer of the century in regards to marriage equality.” Really?

Mr. Rudd is no theologian, so why does he attempt to critique something he is not well educated about? Jesus made a bold prediction 2000 years ago, without the help of the printing press, TV, Internet or mass communication: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) How true. We have forgotten the words of many emperors, celebrities and rich men, but we are still quoting the Son of God today.

Both enemies and friends of the Bible serve themselves well when they refer to the Bible, even when misquoting it, that’s why they will always do. Some of them wish they could quote something else, but to their dismay, no more powerful words have ever been spoken or penned than those which God claims are His. The Bible is unique and evidently the only eternal book on this planet. Critics piggyback off of God’s Words for leverage and influence. Mr. Rudd has certainly got attention, on earth and in heaven, for his brazen mockery.

But Mr. Rudd’s history is no better than his theology, which is most disconcerting. Mediterranean cultures, be they Greek, Roman or Arab, were built on slavery – the type that was racist, despotic and violent. Judeo-Christian cultures were the first to set slaves free. Any student knows this.

In ancient times, Israel was the only nation to frown upon slavery. African tribes enslaved each other. Pacific Islanders cannibalized each other. Native Americans scalped their enemies or gave them up as human sacrifices. Everywhere you look was brutal slavery except in the oasis nation of Israel. One simple reason was their laws. They didn’t learn their laws from their neighbors. They didn’t copy stronger empires. They claimed the Creator God spoke to Moses and the prophets.

One peculiar law unique among the Jews was the law of rest or keeping the Sabbath.

Roman senator Lantulus Silonus wrote a letter back to the Roman senate about his impressions of this Judean province on the outskirts of the Roman Empire. His mission was to determine whether or not Israel would pose a threat to Rome. Historian Howard Fast described in his book “My Glorious Brothers” (1948) how the Roman official was shocked by this strange law of not working every 7 days. Everybody, boss or employee, master or slave, men or women, had to rest and spend the day worshipping God and studying Torah (the Bible).

There was another peculiar law of releasing slaves after 6 years of slavery. The net effect? Senator Lantulus wrote: “Where as in our [Roman] society, our census shows 23 slaves per freeman, in Judea it is the opposite: 1 slave per 23 freemen. This is a danger to Rome, something which should not be overlooked. It is also a crime to beat slaves in Judea.” That’s a quote from both Exodus 22:21 and 23:9, “Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” The Bible expressly prohibits racism, a radical idea for any nation.

“When considering that our entire society is based on slavery, the question of the Jews is not merely a local question. When asked why the Jews, in all strata of society, do not behave like people of [our] culture, and keep slaves, their answer is: ‘Because we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.’”

Senator Lantulus concluded his letter: “The Jews cannot ever be trusted…All our thinking about slavery and freedom are foreign to them… the Jews in essence are a threat to Rome, because they bring into question the most important principle of Western culture, the freedom of the house of slavery… Even if they are few in number, even if they are satisfied with only their little piece of territory – we must never ignore the danger the Jews pose. The World cannot tolerate both Rome and Judah together.”

Indeed, the world could not. Rome fell and Judeo-Christian culture survived and thrived. Thanks to the Bible, many nations today enjoy God’s gift of rest every 7 days. The Lord’s half-brother James wrote, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

Jewish author Avi Lipkin, in his book “Return to Mecca” (2012), tells the story of Simon the Hasmonean judging a runaway slave caught by his owners. Simon asked the slave: “Why did you run away?” The slave answered: “I wanted to be free.” Simon told the slave to return to his master and wait until the Jubilee to be free by Jewish Law. He also told the master not to punish the slave. This story sounds a lot like Paul’s letter pleading for the runaway slave Onesimus to his master Philemon, which I covered in a previous blog called “The New Testament on Slavery“.

Though Christians like William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln are usually credited with emancipating slaves, it can be rightfully said that the Jews were the first people to oppose slavery. Jewish opposition to slavery was considered a threat to Rome. Gentile nations despised the Jews because of their economics. Bible believers tend to advocate a lifestyle that increases the wealth and happiness of everyone. Hitler and the Nazis envied the prosperity of the Jewish immigrants in their country. How can a people who believe in economic freedom be accused of believing in slavery?

The truth is just the opposite. People who oppose the Bible make bad laws and form bad governments which over-tax their citizens and take away their freedom. If we followed the Bible in Australia, we would never be taxed at 40-50% of our income (include GST in that). We would not tolerate fashionable inequalities, where now it seems acceptable to mock Christians, but not Muslims; to put down men, but not women; to poke fun at straight men, but not gay men. When we forsake the foundation of our values and freedom, the Bible, we arrive at reverse discrimination.

Without God’s time-tested standards, we become victims of false and moving standards which anyone in power like Mr. Rudd can set. In ancient Israel, prophets kept kings in check. In Christian nations, Christians kept government and the media in check. Who hid Jews from a mass murderer like Adolf Hitler? Christians like Corrie ten Boom. The Bible stands in opposition to powerful people doing what they want, that’s why the first thing dictators do, as they did in Nazi Germany, North Korea, communist Angola and Cuba, is to get rid of the Christians and Jews, close the churches and synagogues, and ultimately ban the Bible itself. They are the only checks on political power.

Australia is not immune to the corruption of power. It was good, when so many German voters agreed resoundingly with Hitler, that a minority called Christians stuck with the Bible and dissented. It is now good for us, when everybody chants the same chant on homosexuality, that Christians speak a different perspective. Christians were never called to be popular, but we are undeniably the salt of a corroding earth. Nothing scares me more than when the public and politicians unanimously agree on an issue, forbidding any dissent or opposing evidence. History tells me homogenous opinion is usually the result of mass manipulation and mind control. Truth can stand up to challenges. Jesus was undeterred by popular opinion and unafraid of the entire Roman government. The Bible has withstood bitter opposition. Christians have survived hateful persecution. The presence of a Christian church defending and teaching the Bible against the tides of politics and mass media brings enormous blessings upon our people. I pray Mr. Kevin Rudd understands that much history.

It is in Judeo-Christian nations where people are most free, including people who choose to be homosexual. They ought to count their blessings that they live in a Christian country and not in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia where they would be outcast, if not executed. To denigrate the Bible which gave us all the civility and liberty which no other culture comes close to enjoying is the result of an unenlightened heart or closed mind.

Do not be deceived. Believe Jesus, and believe what Jesus believed!

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1 Peter 3:15 advises Christians to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you…” Our best defense is to read the Bible daily and do not forsake the wisdom of Bible teachers.

I collected evidence for these 3 articles on “slavery in the Bible” before Rudd made his invidious comparison.

The Truth About God & Slavery
1984 & the Politics of Language
The New Testament on Slavery

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