One of the major headlines covering Ukraine’s war with Russia says, “Up to 40,000 Ukrainians snatched from besieged cities have been forced into ‘slave labor’ in Russia.”[1] The history of the world regarding making slaves out of conquered enemies is full of atrocities. We see it in the Bible as well. “Thus says the Lord,” In Amos 1:6-7, “For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they carried into exile a whole people to deliver them up to Edom. So I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza, and it shall devour her strongholds.” 

Gaza was one of the main cities of the Philistines, the perennial enemies of Israel and Judah. Hoyt observes, “After the time of Amos (during the reign of King Ahaz), Philistia invaded southern Judah.”[2] They defeated the Israelites and delivered them to another perennial enemy, Edom, as slaves. The Philistines are sometimes identified with the Palestinians of today, but there is much debate over that connection. Yet, when I speak with friends in Israel, they argue that the current Palestinians have dedicated themselves to the complete extinction of the Jewish nation. That’s one reason there is constant war in the Mid-East. Whether the current Palestinians are the ancient Philistines is not as important as the fact that they both had the same intentions for the Israelites. They would settle for nothing less than the entire nihilation of the Nation. The phrase “whole people” has caught the attention of many commentators. One argues that this phrase in this context means “That full populations or communities were taken as exiles. Typically when one nation conquered another, the victors would exile people; however, usually, it was only the previous leaders, rulers, and higher-ranking people most likely to lead a revolt. Here, though, by exiling entire populations, Gaza has gone far beyond what was standard. They did not just uproot those who led the fight against them but everyone, even those who had no part in the battle.”[3] God will not condone the misuse of one human for the gratification of another.

There is a tendency to look at slavery as something of the past. But it is estimated that there are today over 27 million people in the world who are subject to slavery: forced labor, sex trade, inheritable property, etc. God does not condone this kind of slavery. He saved Israel from it at the hands of the Egyptians, and he will repay Edom and Philistia for this kind of slavery. As Jeremias observed, “Amos 1:6 is most likely referring to the greed of the Edomites, who needed slaves for the expansion of their extensive copper industry.”[4] The Egyptians used the slave labor of the Israelites to build their cities. Now the Edomites received the descendants of the Egyptian slaves to do similar hard labor for them. God disapproves of slavery. The laws handed down to Israel at Sinai contain restrictions on slavery which make biblical slavery more like employment. It even allowed the Israelites to hire themselves out accordingly. The laws of Exodus “gave some basic rights to slaves and curtailed the actions of masters in a historically unprecedented way. In the ancient world outside of Israel, slaves had no rights. But God’s Law extended to slaves the right to keep a wife, the right not to be sold to foreigners, the right to be adopted into a family by marriage, and the right to food and clothing.”[5]


[2] Hoyt, JoAnna M. 2018. Amos, Jonah, & Micah. Edited by H. Wayne House and William D. Barrick. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jeremias, Jörg. 1998. The Book of Amos: A Commentary. Translated by Douglas W. Stott. First American edition. The Old Testament Library. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

[5] Got Questions Ministries. 2002–2013. Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.