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Violence and Personhood in Ancient Israel and Comparative Contexts$
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T. M. Lemos

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198784531

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198784531.001.0001

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For He Is Your Property

For He Is Your Property

Violence and the Personhood of Slaves in Ancient Israel

(p.99) 4 For He Is Your Property
Violence and Personhood in Ancient Israel and Comparative Contexts

T. M. Lemos

Oxford University Press

This chapter assesses the relationship between the subordination of slaves and their personhood, emphasizing how the particular nature of the subordination of slaves made them susceptible to violence. The chapter considers both biblical and extra-biblical evidence for the status of both foreign and native-born, female and male slaves. The evidence seems to imply that debt slaves were considered persons, though the status of female slaves was lower than that of male slaves and the status of foreign “chattel slaves” the lowest of all, with the latter having the most tenuous claims to personhood. Regardless of gender or type of enslavement, slaves were a type of subordinate who, by virtue of their status, owed their masters physical control over their bodies. This was not just in cases of transgression, but by virtue of their being slaves. It is unsurprising, then, that transgression could lead masters to exact physical violence against them.

Keywords:   slavery, violence, physical abuse, social hierarchies, inequality, ethnicity, sexual violence, human trafficking

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